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JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET 



Ibis OLife anfc Xetters 



JULIA CARTWRIGHT 

(Mrs. Henry Ady) 
Author of " Sacharissa," "Madame," " The Pilgrims Way," etc., etc. 



"II faut pouvoir faire servir le trivial a 
l'expression du sublime, c'est la la vraie force." 

— J. F. Millet 



With Nine Photogravures by the Swan Electric Engraving Co., 
and Messrs. Braun Clement & Cie., of Paris 




ILonbon 

SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO LlMJ? 

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1896 



Butler & Tanner, 

The Selwood Printing Works, 

Frome, and London. 



PREFACE 



THE world moves on so fast and new phases of art 
succeed each other with such surprising rapidity in 
the present day, that to many ears the name of Jean 
Francois Millet may have a remote and antiquated sound. 
Only twenty years have passed since the great peasant- 
painter died. But he has already taken his place among 
the classics, and the enormous prices that are paid for his 
works in England and America, as well as in France, 
prove how fully his genius is now recognised. He stands 
supreme among his contemporaries as the first painter of 
humanity who gave expression to modern ideas in noble 
and enduring form, and whose work will live when the 
passing fashions and momentary fancies of the day are 
forgotten. 

The life of Millet was partly written by his friend, Alfred 
Sensier, and completed and published after the author's 
death by M. Paul Mantz, in the year 1881. Sensier began 
his work during the painter's lifetime, and his book con- 
tains a large number of letters and recollections from 
Millet's own pen. These, we need hardly say, are of the 
utmost value and interest. But the book itself has long 
been out of print, and is chiefly known to English readers 
by the abridged translation, made by an American writer, 
which originally appeared in Scribners Magazine, and was 
afterwards published by Macmillan. Of late years many 
other important contributions to the subject have been 
made by French and American writers who were person- 
ally acquainted with Millet, and whose recollections reveal 



IV 



PREFACE 



him under new and different aspects. As long ago as 
September, 1876, Mr. Edward Wheelwright published a 
most interesting account of his intercourse with the Bar- 
bizon painter in the Atlantic Monthly, and in 1889, another 
American artist, Mr. Wyatt-Eaton, gave the world some 
valuable recollections of Millet during the last years of his 
life in the Century Magazine. Still more recently, Mr. T. 
H. Bartlett has published two papers in Scribner's Maga- 
zine (1890), giving further particulars of the painter's life at 
Barbizon, and including twenty-seven letters, or fragments 
of letters, which did not appear in Sensier's book. Many 
of these are of especial value, and help to explain passages 
in Millet's career which had been hitherto involved in 
obscurity. Other letters have appeared in different French 
periodicals, and M. Piedagnel has written a charming 
account of a visit which he paid to Millet in 1864, in his 
little volume of Souvenirs de Barbizon. Two papers on 
Millet's early life and his later years at Barbizon by the 
painter's own brother, Pierre Millet, were also published 
in the Century Magazine for January, 1893, an d April, 1894. 
A monograph on the art of Millet from the pen of the 
well-known writer, M. Yriarte, appeared in the Biblio- 
theque d? Art Mode me (Paris, 1885), and an admirable 
essay on the painter has been written by M. Charles Bigot 
in his Peintres Francais Contemporains (Paris, 1888). 
Among English writers who have treated the same subject 
we may name Mr. David Croal Thomson, whose excellent 
articles on Millet in the Magazine of Art have been re- 
printed in his book on the "Barbizon School" (1889), and 
Mr. William Ernest Henley, who has done more than any 
living writer to make the great French master's work 
known in this country. His "Early Life of Millet" in the 
Cornhill for 1882 attracted considerable attention at the 
time, and his biographical introduction to a volume of 
Twenty-two Woodcuts and Etchings, reproduced in fac- 



PREFACE 



simile (1881), is one of the ablest essays that has ever been 
written on the subject. 

The biographical facts and letters which have been col- 
lected from these different sources, have been supplemented 
by a variety of information received from members of his 
family and personal friends, which helps to fill up the out- 
line and complete the picture. One by one the men and 
women who were his contemporaries are dropping out, and 
it becomes the more important to collect these scattered 
memories before the generation which knew Millet has 
quite passed away. The smallest details which throw light 
on the character and genius of such a man are precious, 
and every incident in his life deserves to be remembered. 
For in Millet's case the man and the artist were closely 
bound together, and his art was in a special manner the 
outcome of his life. Himself a peasant of peasants, he 
has illustrated the whole cycle of the life of the fields in 
a series of immortal pictures. " Man goeth forth to his 
labour until the evening "is the text of all his works. 
The impressions which he has recorded are those which 
he received himself, in the days when he laboured with 
his own hands in the fields of his father's home — the 
only side of life, he often said, with which he was really 
familiar. But his theme was new and strange, and be- 
cause the young Norman artist dared to take an indepen- 
dent line, and paint the subjects which appealed to him, he 
had to face, not only the prejudices of an ignorant public, 
but the scorn and hatred of the official world. 

We have only to turn back to the journals and periodicals 
of those days, and study old volumes of La Gazette des 
Beaux-Arts, to see how fierce was the opposition which he 
had to encounter. His finest masterpieces were rejected by 
the jury of the Salon, and the pictures which now fetch 
their thousands were sold for a few pounds to buy bread 
for his children. But, pitiful as the story is, it is none the 



VI 



PREFACE 



less noble and inspiring. His sufferings saddened his days 
and shortened the number of his years, but they did not 
crush his spirit or weaken the message that he had to give. 
On the whole, we may count him more fortunate than 
many whose lives have been spent in happier conditions ; 
for he worked in obedience to a deep and unchanging con- 
viction, and clung in his darkest hours with despairing 
tenacity to the principles for which he had ventured all. 
"A peasant I was born, and a peasant I will die ! " he cried; 
" I will say what I feel, and paint things as I see them." 

Apart from his artistic genius, Millet's personality is one 
of rare charm. He had all the courage and independence 
of his Norman ancestors, together with their simple faith 
and goodness. But although a peasant by birth and edu- 
cation, he was a man of remarkable culture. He had read 
widely, and thought deeply, and was gifted not only with 
a poetic imagination of the highest order, but with fine 
literary instincts. His letters are full of grave and preg- 
nant sentences, his conversation surprised men of letters by 
its terseness and originality. And if the natural melan- 
choly of his nature was deepened by the hardships which 
he endured, and the persecution to which he was exposed, 
a deep undercurrent of hope runs alike through his life and 
through his art. The sense of tears may be felt in all that 
he ever painted, but it is lightened throughout by the 
radiance of the divine hope that cheers the poet's dream. 
He belongs to " the great company of grief," who have 
stamped their thoughts on the heart of this generation, who 
learnt in suffering what they taught in song, and who, out 
of the seeming failures of a short and sorrowful life, have 
reared the fabric of an art that will live for all time. 

J. C. 



CONTENTS 



Greville, 1814-1837 
Paris, 1837-1849 
Barbizon, 1849-1875 
1875-1895 . 



PART I 



PART II 



PART III 



PART IV 



PAGE 

I 



41 



97 



359 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



1. Portrait of Millet . 

2. Le Semeur (The Sower) 

3. Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners) . 

4. The Angelus (From the Pastel in the 

Forbes Collection) .... 

5. La Nuee de Corbeaux (The Flight of 

Birds) 

6. La Jeune Bergere (The Young Shep- 

herdess) 

7. La Sortie (The Departure) . 

8. Le Retour (The Return) 

9. Les Lavandieres (The Washerwomen). 



Frontispiece 
To face page no 

175 

„ 204 

225 

262 
289 
33 2 
3 8 ° 



*»* A limited Large Paper Edition has also been issued, printed on the best 
hand-made paper, 4to, and with the Illustrations on India paper. 



PART I 

GREVILLE 

1814— 1837 

" Oh ! encore un coup, comme je suis de mon endroit." 

— J. F. Millet. 



am 



J 



THE life of Millet falls naturally into three divisions. 
The first part contains the story of his early youth 
and education in his native village of Gr6ville. The 
second includes the twelve years of his stay in Paris, 
and training as an artist. The third corresponds with 
his residence at Barbizon, where he spent the last twenty- 
six years of his life, and where all his great works were 
painted. Each period has its peculiar interest and im- 
portance. First we see him as the child growing up in 
his peasant-home, and receiving those impressions which 
were to last during his whole life-time. Then we follow 
him through the struggles of his Lehr- and Wander jahre, 
and watch the painful steps by which he served his 
apprenticeship to art and life. Finally, we see him 
go forth as the complete and finished master to give 
his message to the world. There can be no doubt 
which is the most attractive part of the story. The 
days of youth, before we enter on the storm and 
stress of the battle of life, are naturally pleasant to 
look back upon. And in Millet's case this part of the 
story is more than commonly interesting and instructive. 
For the circumstances of his birth and childhood had a 
remarkable share in shaping the bent of his genius. To 
the early influences of his peasant-home, he owed the 
strength of his character and convictions ; and in the 
country scenes amidst which he was born and bred, he 
found the inspiration which governed his whole career. 



J. F. MILLET 



Although after the first eighteen years of his life he was 
never again at his native place excepting for a short visit, 
nothing could ever weaken the memory of these first im- 
pressions, and to the end of his life he remained the 
peasant of Gr6ville. "Oh! once more, how I belong to 
my native soil!" he exclaimed, when in 187 1, three 
years before his death, he paid his last visit to Normandy ; 
and no truer word was ever spoken. 

Jean Francois Millet was born on the 4th of October, 
1814, at Gruchy, a small hamlet of Greville, a village ten 
miles west of Cherbourg, in the department of La Manche, 
and at the north-west extremity of that narrow strip of 
coast which runs out into the English Channel to end in 
the steep headland of La Hague. A wild and rugged 
coast it is, bristling with granite rocks and needles, and 
stern and desolate to the sailor's eye as he sails along 
its perilous shores, but pleasant and fruitful enough in- 
land : a country of rolling down and breezy moorland, 
where quaint old church-towers of grey stone stand on 
the hill-tops, and low roofs cluster among the apple- 
orchards and grass meadows in the sheltered valleys. 
The whole district has a special interest for Englishmen, 
as the cradle of some of our older families, and many of 
these villages, like Gre>ille itself, still bear the names of 
the barons who sailed of old with the Conqueror to found 
a new kingdom on the shores of Britain. 

Gruchy itself is a straggling street of houses perched 
on the top of the cliffs, a few hundred yards from the 
sea. On one side rise grey boulders clad with bracken, 
brightened here and there with patches of golden gorse 
or purple heather, through which we can look down on 
the waves breaking in foam on the rocky shore below, 
and catch a glimpse of the mountain sheep cropping the 
short grass. On the other are orchards and pastures, 
with oak and elm trees bent into fantastic shapes by the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 5 

wind, and deep winding lanes with high hedges, such as 
we see in Kent or Sussex. The house where the painter 
was born is still standing. It is the last of a row of four 
houses, built of huge blocks of rough grey stone, and 
thatched with straw. An old vine with gnarled stem 
grows up the wall, and on a block of granite let in over 
the door we read the words : — 



" ICI EST NE LE PEINTRE JEAN FRANCOIS MlLLET, 
LE 4 OCTOBRE, 1814." 

The house has been divided of late years, but a portion 
is still occupied by the widow of Millet's younger brother. 
Little is changed since the painter's days. The quaint 
old well, with the hive-shaped roof and flight of steps, 
which figures in more than one of Millet's drawings, is 
still standing, and the ivy which he begged might be 
spared when he gave up his share in the old home still 
grows thickly over the worn, grey stones. The large 
kitchen within, the wooden dresser and settle and the 
great open fireplace, are all the same as they were in 
Francois' childhood. Upstairs we are shown the room 
where he was born, and some etchings and early draw- 
ings from his hand. Close by is a low wall which he 
helped to build, and a barn-door on which he roughly 
scrawled the figure of a grinning devil with a pitch- 
fork. Beyond is the douet, or washing-place, where the 
women of Gruchy still beat their linen with the big, 
round stones in the pathway. And as we stand at this 
lonely spot, where briars and ivy grow tangled together 
over crumbling walls, we can look down across the fields, 
where the painter sowed and reaped, to the wide stretch 
of sea and the far horizon which filled his young soul 
with dreams. 

The wild and desolate aspect of the coast has left its 
stamp upon the people of the district. These bleak moors 



J. F. MILLET 



and rugged cliffs, the abiding presence of the sea, and the 
frequent shipwrecks on that perilous shore have made them 
familiar from childhood with thoughts of death, and 
with the nearness of the unseen world. Even now they 
are a primitive and God-fearing race ; frugal and thrifty 
in their ways, strong to bear the hardships of their daily 
lot, and faithful to their ideas of right and wrong. Much 
more was this the case eighty years ago, when in those 
troubled days, at the close of Napoleon's wars, Jean 
Francois Millet first saw the light in the old, grey house 
facing the rising sun at the end of Gruchy street. 

Here, after the patriarchal fashion of the place, three 
generations lived under the same roof. Jean Louis, the 
painter's father, came of a good old yeoman stock, and 
united in his person the qualities of two remarkably 
vigorous peasant races, the Millets of Greville and the 
Jumelins of Saint Germain-le-Gaillard, a village in the 
Vallee Hochet, fifteen or sixteen miles distant. Nicolas 
Millet, the painter's grandfather, had been dead some fifteen 
years, but his widow, Louise Jumelin, shared her son's 
home and brought up his children. Jean Louis himself 
was a tall, slight man, with soft black eyes, long dark 
curling hair, and beautiful hands. A singularly refined 
and gentle soul, his tastes and sympathies were of a dis- 
tinctly artistic nature, although his life was spent in tilling 
the fields. He loved music, had a fine voice himself, and 
taught the village choir so well that people came from all 
parts of the countryside to hear the singing in Greville 
church. For their use he made a collection of simple 
chants, several of which his son preserved, written, it is 
said, in a hand worthy of a mediaeval scribe. He modelled 
in clay, carved flowers and animals in wood, and was 
never tired of studying the forms of trees and plants. 

"See how fine these are," he would say to his little son, 
as they went out to work, taking up a blade or two of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



grass in his hand. And again, " Look what a tall and 
well-shaped tree that one is — as beautiful as a flower!" 
And when they were looking out of the window together, 
he would say, " Look how well that house lies half buried 
in the field ! It seems to me that it ought to be drawn in 
this way." 

His gentle, thoughtful nature endeared him to all. At 
his approach rude jests were silenced, and unseemly 
laughter died away. " Hush ! " some one would say, if 
a coarse joke were made in his presence ; " here comes 
Millet." 

One day, as little Francois stood at his father's side, 
watching the setting sun sink into the waves, the glory of 
the scene stirred him to enthusiastic admiration, and he 
poured out his heart in an ecstasy of childish rapture. 
Jean Louis took his cap off reverently and said, " My son, 
it is God." The boy never forgot that word. 

Jean Louis had married young by the express wish of 
his parents, who feared to see their only son torn from 
his home and forced to serve in the wars of Napoleon. 
But since newly married men were exempt from military 
service at that time, and Jean Louis was attached to a 
well-born maiden in the neighbouring village of Ste. Croix, 
both families agreed in hurrying on the union of the young 
people, who were married in 1811. The object of the 
young man's choice was a fair young girl named Aimee 
Henriette Adelaide Fleury du Perron, a member of an old 
yeoman family, who had known better days. Millet re- 
membered hearing his mother speak of the fine house in 
which her parents lived, with its massive granite build- 
ings and large courtyard shaded by tall trees. She herself 
was a simple and devout soul like her husband, whose 
time and thoughts were divided between her children and 
the field-work in which she took her share. At the same 
time, her letters to her son show that she was by no 



8 



J. F. MILLET 



means devoid of intelligence or education, and it is a 
mistake to suppose, as some writers have done, that she 
was a mere household drudge. To the end of her life she 
kept her youthful air and graceful and refined appear- 
ance. She was" always well dressed, her son Pierre tells 
us, and had a marked preference for bright colours and 
gaily-flowered china. Like a good mother she was especi- 
ally anxious for her children's material welfare, and did 
her best to keep up the position of the family in the eyes 
of the world. Millet was tenderly attached to his 
mother, and has left us a good likeness of this patient 
and loving woman in his Cueillense d'Haricots, where 
Aim6e Millet is seen gathering beans in front of her 
home at Gruchy. 

But it was the grandmother, Louise Jumelin, who played 
the chief part in Millet's earliest recollections. A woman 
of strong character and deep feeling, stern in her ideas 
of duty, but gifted with a boundless capacity for loving, 
Louise Jumelin was an interesting and striking per- 
sonality. The members of her family had all of them 
made their mark in the world. One brother was a monk, 
another a chemist of some repute in Paris, a third had 
spent some years as a planter in Guadeloupe, but in Mil- 
let's childish recollection, his chief distinction lay in the 
fact that he had once walked to Paris on foot in two days 
and nights. Another brother, a miller in the neighbour- 
hood of GrCville, was a great reader, and studied Mon- 
taigne and Pascal, the philosophers of the last century, and 
the writers of Port Royal, during his leisure moments. 
Her old sister, Bonne, was devoted to the Millet children, 
and Bonnette, as the}^ called her, remained one of the 
painter's fondest recollections to his dying day. Louise 
Jumelin herself had inherited the strong head and warm 
heart of her family. She had all their religious fervour 
and no small share of culture. She took the saints as her 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



model and carried out her ideal in every detail of daily 
life. Nothing would ever induce her to swerve a step 
from what she held to be right ; and if she was in any 
doubt she went at once, in her simple faith, to consult the 
village cure\ But this mystic vein of piety was blended 
with an ardent love of natural beauty, and the fire of her 
zeal for God was tempered with the tenderest human love 
and pity. "Hers was a beautiful religion," says Millet, 
" for it gave her strength to love so well and so un- 
selfishly. The saintly woman was always ready to help 
others, to excuse their faults, to pity and relieve them." 
And his brother Pierre, who was many years younger, 
tells us, in his recollections of his grandmother, that her 
aged face wore an expression of Christian goodness which 
agreed perfectly with her character. 

Such was the remarkable woman to whom the care of the 
painter's childhood was entrusted, after the Norman custom, 
in order that the mother might be left free to work in the 
fields, and tend the sheep and cattle on her husband's farm. 
He was the second child, but eldest boy of Jean Louis' 
family, and his birth was accordingly welcomed with joy 
by his grandmother, who was proud of her first grandson, 
and looked on him from the first as her especial property. 
She it was who held him at the baptismal font and gave 
him the name of Francois, after the Saint of Assisi, on 
whose fete-day he was born — Francis, who called the 
birds his brothers and sisters, and praised God for the 
sun and stars and all living creatures. No more fitting 
patron could have been chosen for the great peasant 
painter, and no better or holier influence could have 
watched over his early years than that of this good 
grandmother. He remembered how she used to rock him 
in her arms, and sing him to sleep with songs of old 
Normandy. On bright spring mornings she would rouse 
him from his slumbers, saying, as she bent over him in 



IO 



J. F. MILLET 



her high, white linen cap, " Wake up, my little Francis ! 
The birds have long been singing the glory of our good 
God." As the boy grew older, she taught him to see the 
hand of a great and loving Father in all the wonders of 
sea and shore, and to dread a wrong action more than 
death itself. And in so doing she laid the foundation of 
that moral uprightness and simple faith which marked 
the character of the man. To the end of her life she 
followed him with her prayers and counsels, and long 
after she was dead Millet recalled her words and cherished 
her memory with the tenderest affection. 

Another aged relative to whom Millet always said he 
owed much was his great-uncle, the Abbe" Charles Millet, 
a priest of the diocese of Avranches, who had been forced 
to hide himself in his brother's house during the Revolution. 
He had steadily refused to take the oath to the Constitution, 
and had in consequence narrowly escaped with his life. 
When the Reign of Terror was over, he lived on at Gruchy 
with his brother and nephew, inhabiting a room over the 
old stone well, opposite the house. He taught Jean Louis 
to read, and acted by turns as parish priest and field- 
labourer. 

" He might often be seen," writes Sensier, " reading his 
breviary on the upper pastures overlooking the sea, or 
else guiding the plough, or carrying blocks of granite 
to rear walls round the family acres. If he had a 
furrow to plough, or a garden to hoe, he put his breviary 
into his pocket, tucked his cassock into his girdle, and 
went to work with goodwill." But whether at home or 
abroad little Francois was the good Abbe's constant com- 
panion. He taught the boy to read, and watched over 
his early years with the most anxious affection. But 
he died when his great-nephew was only seven years 
old, and the event made a profound impression on the 
thoughtful child. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



I I 



There was yet one other member of the little house- 
hold at Gruchy who played an important part in Francois' 
life. This was his sister Emilie, the eldest of Jean Louis' 
eight children. She was a girl of sweet and gentle dis- 
position, much beloved by all her family, and especially 
by her brother Francois, to whom she bore a marked 
resemblance. She was the favourite companion of the 
painter's boyhood, and treasured up stories of his sayings 
and doings, which she loved to repeat in after years. In 
her eyes Francois was always a remarkable child, unlike 
other children in his ways and thoughts. Francois, who 
was eighteen months younger, looked up to Emilie as a 
cherished elder sister, and made a charming drawing of 
her sitting at her spinning-wheel, in the white linen cap, 
homespun skirt, and sabots of the Norman peasant-girl. 
The affection between the brother and sister lasted to the 
end of their lives, and survived many years of trial and 
separation. When in 1866 Emilie, who had become the 
wife of a neighbouring farmer, named Lefevre, fell 
dangerously ill, Millet hastened to Gr6ville without delay, 
and has left a touching account of her death in his 
letters. 



12 



J. F. MILLET 



II 



IN later years. Millet often spoke of his boyhood, and 
loved to recall each little incident of these youthful 
days upon which he looked back as the happiest time of his 
life. At Sensier's request he wrote out several pages of his 
earliest recollections, which are so full of interest, and give 
so vivid a picture of his childish memories, that we quote 
them word for word : — 



" I remember being awakened one morning by voices in the room 
where I slept. There was a whizzing sound which made itself heard 
between the voices now and then. It was the sound of spinning- 
wheels, and the voices were those of women spinning and carding 
wool. The dust of the room danced in a ray of sunshine which 
shone through the high narrow window that lighted the room. I 
often saw the sunshine produce the same effect again, as the house 
faced east. In one corner of the room there was a large bed, 
covered by a counterpane with broad red and brown stripes, which 
hung down to the floor. There was also a large brown cupboard 
against the wall, between the feet of the bed and the window. All 
this comes back to me as in a vague, a very vague, dream. If I 
were asked to recall in the faintest degree the faces of those poor 
spinners, all my efforts would be in vain, for although I grew up 
before they died, I only remember their names because I heard 
them afterwards spoken of in my family. One of them was my old 
great-aunt Jeanne. The other was a spinner by profession, who 
often came to the house, and was called Colombe Gamache. 

" This is the oldest of all my memories. I must have been very 
little when I received that impression, and it was a long time before 
I became conscious of any more distinct images. I only remember 
confused impressions, such as the sound of steps coming and 
going in the house, the cackle of geese in the yard, the crowing 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



13 



of the cock, the swing of the flail in the barn, and similar noises 
which fell on my ears constantly and produced no particular 
emotion. 

" There is a little fact which stands out more clearly. The 
Commune invested in some new bells : two of the old ones had been 
melted down to make guns, and the third had been broken, as I 
heard afterwards. My mother had the curiosity to go and see the 
new bells, which were placed in the church to be baptized before 
they were hung in the tower, and took me with her. She was 
accompanied by a girl named Julie Lecacheux, whom I knew very 
well afterwards. I remember how much I was impressed at finding 
myself in so vast a place as the church, which seemed even more 
immense than our barn, and how the beauty of the big windows with 
their lozenge-shaped panes struck my imagination. We saw the 
bells, all three resting on the ground, and they also appeared enor- 
mous, since they were much bigger than I was ; and then (what no 
doubt fixed the scene in my mind) Julie Lecacheux, who held a very 
big key in her hand — probably that of the church — began to strike 
the largest bell, which rang loudly, filling me with wonder and ad- 
miration. I have never forgotten the sound of that key on the bell. 

" I had an old great-uncle who was a priest. He was very fond of 
me, and took me about everywhere with him. Once he took me to 
a house where he often went. The lady of the house was aged, and 
lives in my mind as the type of a lady of the old regime. She 
caressed me, gave me a slice of bread and honey, and into the bargain 
a fine peacock's feather. I remember how good that honey tasted, 
and how beautiful the feather seemed ! I had already been filled 
with wonder on entering the yard at the sight of two peacocks 
perched on a big tree, and I could not forget the fine eyes on their 
long tails ! 

" My great-uncle sometimes took me to Eculleville, a little hamlet of 
Greville. The house to which he took me was a sort of chateau, 
known as the mansion of Eculleville. There was a maid named 
Fanchon. The owner, whom I never knew, had a taste for rare trees, 
and had planted some pines. You would have to go a long way in 
our neighbourhood before you could find so many together. Fanchon 
sometimes gave me some pine-cones, which filled me with delight. 

" This poor great-uncle was so afraid of any harm happening to 
me that he was miserable if I was not at his side. This I had been 
often told ; but as I by this time was able to run, on one occasion 



14 



J. F. MILLET 



I escaped with some other boys, and climbed down the rocks to the 
sea-shore. After trying in vain to find me, he ended by coming 
down to the sea, and caught sight of me bending over the pools left 
by the retreating tide, trying to catch tadpoles. He called me in so 
terrified a voice, that I jumped up without delay, and saw him on 
the top of the cliffs beckoning to me to return at once. I did not 
let him call twice, for his look frightened me ; and if I could have 
found any other way than the path at the top of which he was 
awaiting me, I would have taken it. But the steepness of the cliff 
forced me to take this path. When I had reached the top, and was 
out of danger, he flew into a violent rage. He took up his three- 
cornered hat and began to strike me with it ; and as the cliff was still 
very steep on the way back to the village, and my little legs could 
not carry me very fast, he followed me, beating me, with a face as 
red as a turkey-cock. So he pursued me all the way to the house, 
saying with each blow of his hat, ' There ! I will help you to get 
home ! ' This filled me with great dread of the three-cornered hat. 
My poor uncle on his part had the most frightful nightmare all the 
following night, and kept waking up every minute in terror, crying 
out that I was falling over the cliff. Since I was not old enough to 
appreciate a tenderness which took the form of blows, this was by 
no means the only alarm which I gave him. It appears that once 
during mass I chattered with some other children. He coughed, 
as a sign to stop me, but I soon began again. Then he came down 
the church, and taking me by the arm, made me kneel down under 
the lamp in the middle of the choir. I do not know how it happened, 
for I never in all my life had the least wish to resist punishment, but 
somehow I caught my foot in his surplice and tore it. Over- 
whelmed with horror at this act of impiety, he left me without giving 
me the intended penance, and returned to his place, where he re- 
mained, more dead than alive, until the end of mass. I had no 
notion what a crime I had committed, and was very much surprised 
when, on our return from mass, my great-uncle began with emotion 
to tell the whole family what an abominable outrage I had com- 
mitted on his person — an act, in fact, little short of sacrilege. Such 
a crime, committed against a priest, made him prophesy fearful 
things of my future. It would be impossible to paint the conster- 
nation of the whole family. For my part, I could not understand 
why I had suddenly become an object of horror, and my dismay was 
great. There, however, my recollections of this unhappy affair end. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



15 



Time has dropped his veil over that, as over other things, and I can- 
not remember if I was ever further punished. 

" This I remember hearing about my great-uncle, who was the 
brother of my paternal grandfather. He had been a labourer in his 
youth, and had become a priest rather late in life. I think he had 
a small parish at the time of the Revolution. I know that he was 
persecuted at that time, and I have heard how a party of men came 
to search my grandfather's house, when he was hidden there. They 
prosecuted their search in the most brutal fashion ; but being of an 
ingenious turn of mind, he managed to make a hiding-place which 
communicated with his bed, where he took refuge when his enemies 
came. One day they arrived so unexpectedly that his bed had not 
yet had time to get cold, and when they were told that he was gone, 
they exclaimed, ' He was here just now ; the bed is still warm, but 
he has managed to escape ! ' And all the while he could hear them 
talking. In their fury they turned the whole house upside down, 
and then went away. 

" My uncle said mass, when he could, in the house ; and I have 
still the leaden chalice which he used. After the Revolution he 
lived on with his brother, and held the office of Vicar of the parish. 
Every morning he went to church to say mass ; after breakfast he 
went to work in the fields, and almost always took me with him. 
When we reached the field, he took off his cassock, and set to work 
in shirt-sleeves and breeches. He had the strength of Hercules. 
Some great walls which he built to support a piece of sloping 
ground are still standing, and are likely to last for many years to 
come. These walls are very high, and are built of immense stones. 
They give one an impression of Cyclopean strength. I have heard 
both my grandmother and father say that he would allow no one 
to help him to lift even the heaviest stones, and there are some 
which would require the united strength of five or six ordinary men 
with levers to move them. 

" He had an excellent heart. He taught the poor children of the 
village, whose parents could not send them to school, for the love 
of God. He even gave them simple Latin lessons. This excited 
the jealousy of his fellow-priests, who complained of him to the 
Bishop of Coutances. I once found, among some old papers, a 
rough draft of a letter which he addressed in self-defence to the 
bishop, saying that he lived at home with his peasant brother, and 
that in the Commune there were some poor children who had no 



i6 



J. F. MILLET 



sort of instruction. He had therefore decided to teach them as 
much as he could, out of pity, and begged the bishop, for the love 
of God, not to prevent these poor children from learning to read. 
I believe the bishop at length consented to let him have his own 
way — a truly generous permission ! 

"As he grew old my great-uncle became very heavy, and often 
walked faster than he wished. I remember how often he used to 
say, ' Ah ! the head bears away the limbs.' At his death I was 
about seven years old. It is very curious to recall these early im- 
pressions, and to see how ineffaceable is the mark which they leave 
upon the mind. 

" My childhood was cradled with tales of ghosts and weird 
stories, which impressed me profoundly. Even to-day I take interest 
in all those kind of subjects. Do I believe in them or not ? I 
hardly know. On the day of my great-uncle's funeral I heard them 
speaking in mysterious terms of his burial. They said that ' some 
heavy stones, covered with bundles of hay, must be placed at the 
head of the coffin, for that would give the robbers trouble. Their 
tools would get caught in the hay, and would break on the stones, 
so that it would be impossible to hook up the head, and pull the 
body out of the grave.' I afterwards learnt the meaning of this 
mysterious language. From the day of the funeral several friends, 
and the servant of the house, who were given hot cider to drink, 
spent each night, armed with guns and any other weapons they 
could find, keeping watch at the grave where my great-uncle had 
been buried. This guard was kept up for about a month. After 
that, they said, there was no more danger. The meaning of all these 
precautions was, that there were men about who made a profession 
of digging up dead bodies for the use of doctors. Whenever any 
one died in the Commune, they would come at night to steal the 
body. Their practice was to take a long screw, and, working 
through the ground and the lid of the coffin, hook up the head of the 
dead man, and so draw out the body without disturbing the earth 
on the surface. They had been met leading the corpse covered 
over with a mantle, supporting it in their arms, and speaking to him 
as if he were a drunken man, telling him to stand up. At other 
times they have been seen on horseback, carrying the dead man in 
the saddle, with the arms tied round the rider's waist, and always 
covered up with a great cloak, but often the feet of the corpse could 
be seen below. Some months before the death of my great-uncle I 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS I 7 

had been sent to school, and I remember well that on the day he 
died, the maidservant was sent to bring me home, lest at so solemn 
a moment I should be seen playing on the road. Before I went to 
school I had begun to learn my letters, and, perhaps, to spell, for 
the other children thought me already very clever. God knows 
what they called clever ! 

" My first arrival at school was for the afternoon class. When I 
reached the court, where the children were at play outside, the first 
thing that I did was to fight. The bigger children, to whose care I 
had been trusted, were proud of bringing a child to school who was 
only six and a half, but who already knew his letters ; and I was so 
big and strong, that they assured me there was not one boy of my 
age, or even of seven, who could beat me. There were no other 
children there under seven ; they were determined to prove the 
truth of this assertion, and at once brought up a boy who was 
supposed to be one of the strongest, and made us fight. I must 
confess that we had no very good reasons for disliking one another, 
and that the fight was of a mild nature. But they had a way of 
putting you on your mettle. A stalk of straw was laid on one boy's 
shoulder, and the other was told : • I bet you dare not knock that 
straw off ! ' and for Tear of being thought a coward you knocked 
it off. The other boy naturally would not submit to such an insult, 
and the fight began in good earnest. The big boys excited the one 
whose side they had taken, and the combatants were not parted 
until one of the two was victorious. The straw was tried in my 
case. I was the strongest, and covered myself with glory. My 
partisans were exceedingly proud of me, and said : ' Millet is only 
six and a half, and he has thrashed a boy of more than seven years 
old ! ' " 



In this way Francois made his first acquaintance with 
school life. He wrote well and easily from dictation, 
probably, as he says, because he read constantly, and the 
words and sentences were fixed in his eyes, rather than 
in his mind. But he could not learn by heart, and spent 
his time in making capital letters of antique type, and 
drawing over his copybooks when he ought to have been 
learning" his lessons. He was hopelessly bad at sums, 
and always declared that he never could get beyond 

c 



i8 



J. F. MILLET 



simple addition. Subtraction and other rules were utterly 
beyond him, and all his reckoning was done in his head, 
after a fashion of his own. But he read every book that 
he could lay hands upon, and watched the clouds and 
the waves, the shapes and colours of the objects about 
him, and pondered them in his heart. Nature herself 
became his teacher, and in her own way she taught him 
lessons which he could not have learnt from any other. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



19 



III 



AT twelve years old Francois was prepared for his 
first communion, and went with his comrades to 
be catechised in the church of Greville. His thoughtful 
answers attracted the notice of Abbe" Herpent, the young 
vicar of the parish, who offered to teach him Latin, 
saying that it might help him to become a priest or a 
doctor. But the boy declined his offer with thanks. " I 
do not wish to be either," he replied, with decision. "I 
mean to stay at home with my parents." 

"Well, then, I will teach you all the same," said the 
young priest. Francois made no further objection and 
joined the class which was held daily at the Abbe's house. 
He learnt to construe the Epitome Historice Sacra and 
the Selectee e Profanis, and if he did not always under- 
stand the grammar, was invariably quick to seize the 
meaning of a difficult passage. One day a discussion 
arose over the myth of Argus. The Vicar insisted that 
on the death of Argus, Juno had given him the eyes of 
her favourite bird, the peacock. Francois, on the contrary, 
declared that Juno had given the peacock the eyes of 
Argus, and pointed to the peacock's tail as a proof of his 
argument. The kind Abbe smiled at the little fellow's 
obstinacy, and said that the question must be referred to 
his superior, the Cure of Greville, but upon further re- 
flection came to the conclusion that Francois was right, 
and wisely dropped the subject. He did his pupil a 
greater service by introducing him to Virgil, which he 



J^^^^H^MMHBHMH^HHB^H 



■■ 



20 



J. F. MILLET 



read partly in French and partly in Latin, in the old 
edition of Abbe' Desfontaines. The Bucolics and Georgics 
were a revelation to this peasant child. They opened 
his eyes to the beauty and meaning of a hundred things 
in nature, and made him understand the life of the fields 
in a way that he had never done before. From that 
moment Virgil became one of the strongest influences 
of his life — a book to be ranked next to the Bible in his 
affections. Certain lines took hold of his imagination 
with strange power, and to his dying day he never forgot 
the thrill of emotion which ran through him when he 
read the words: 

" Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae." 

Even at this early age, the impressions of which Millet 
was conscious were all of a serious nature. The sighing 
of the wind in the oaks and apple-trees, the vast gloom of 
the church on a winter's night, the weird tales of ghosts 
and body-snatchers that haunted the village, were the 
things which struck his childish fancy. He loved the old 
elm-tree in his father's garden, " gnawed by the wind 
and bathed in aerial space." The tall laurel with its 
shining green leaves seemed to him worthy of the Sun-god 
Apollo. Above all, the sea filled him with an awful sense 
of the majesty of nature and the littleness of man. He 
was never tired of listening to the sound of the waves 
breaking upon the rocks, never weary of gazing over the 
wide stretch of boundless sea that seemed to him to speak 
of the infinite. The terrible storms that broke upon that 
iron-bound coast made a profound impression upon his 
sensitive nature. There was one especially which he never 
forgot, and of which he has left us a vivid description. 



" It was All Saints' Day. In the morning we saw that the sea 
was rough, and people said there would be trouble. The whole 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



21 



parish came to church. In the middle of mass a man rushed in, 
all dripping with salt water. It was an old sailor, well known for 
his courage in all the country-side. He began to say that he had 
come up from the beach, and had seen several vessels which the 
wind was driving upon the rocks, where they would certainly be 
wrecked. 'We must go to their help at once,' he said aloud, 'and 
I have come to tell all those who are willing to go with me, that 
there is only just time to put out to sea, if we are to try and save 
them.' Fifty men volunteered to go at once, and followed the old 
sailor without a word. We descended the cliffs to the beach, and 
there we saw a terrible sight : several vessels rushing, one after the 
other, at fearful speed, upon our rocks. Our men put three boats 
out to sea, but before they had rowed ten strokes one boat sank, 
another was upset by a huge breaker, while a third was thrown upon 
the beach. Happily no one on board perished, and all our men 
reached the shore safely ; but it was plain that our boats could be 
of no use to the unhappy souls at sea. Meanwhile the vessels came 
rapidly nearer until they were only a fevy^ yards from the black rocks, 
covered with cormorants. The first had lost its masts, and looked 
like a great rolling mass. We all saw it advancing, and no one 
dared speak a word. It seemed to me, child that I was, as if death 
were playing with a handful of men, who were about to be crushed 
or engulfed in her cruel grasp. Suddenly an immense wave rose 
up like a raging mountain, caught the vessel and carried it towards 
the beach. Then another, yet more immense, dashed it against a 
rock on the water's edge. There was an awful crash, then another, 
and in one moment the ship filled with water and was dashed in 
pieces. The sea was strewn with wreckage, with planks, masts and 
drowning men. Many tried to swim and sank. Our men threw 
themselves into the waves, and with the old sailor at their head 
made desperate efforts to save the poor fellows. Some were rescued, 
but many more were drowned or dashed to pieces on the rocks. 
The sea threw up hundreds of corpses, as well as quantities of cargo. 
For many days afterwards our people picked up these sad fragments 
on the beach, and stowed them away in their cellars, all damaged as 
they were by the salt water. But this was not all. A second vessel 
approached. Its masts were gone. Every one on board was as- 
sembled on the crowded deck. We saw them all on their knees, 
and in their midst a man in black in the act of blessing them. Then 
a wave, as big as the cliffs, rolled her towards us. We seemed to 



22 



J. F. MILLET 



hear another crash, as in the case of the first ship, but this one stood 
firm and did not move. The waves beat against her sides in vain. 
She stood as it were turned to stone. Every one made for land, for 
she was only two gunshots from the shore. One of our boats was 
made fast alongside, and filled with people instantly. Another boat, 
belonging to the ship, put off at the same time, boxes and planks 
were thrown into the sea, and in half an hour every one was safe on 
shore. This last ship was saved by a strange, chance. The bowsprit 
and forepart had been wedged in between two rocks, and the wave 
that dashed her on the reefs had saved her by miracle. This ship 
was English and the man whom we saw blessing his companions was 
a bishop. They were taken to the village and from there to 
Cherbourg. We soon hurried back to the beach. The third ship 
was thrown on the rocks and dashed to pieces. No one was saved 
this time, and the bodies of the unhappy crew were thrown up on 
the sand. Then came a fourth, fifth and sixth vessel, all of which 
were lost with their crew and cargo alike, upon the rocks. The 
tempest was furious. The wind was so violent that it could not be 
resisted. It stripped the houses of their roofs and tore off the 
thatch. So fierce was the gale that many birds, even the seagulls, 
which are used to storms, perished in the whirlwind. 

" The night was spent in trying to protect our own houses. Some 
of us laid big stones upon the roofs, others fastened ladders and 
poles to the roofs to secure them. The trees were bent to the 
ground, their boughs cracked and broke. All the fields were covered 
with branches and leaves. It was a terrible scene. 

" The next morning, All Saints' Day, the men of the village came 
back to the beach. It was covered with dead bodies and wreckage 
which were brought together and laid at the foot of the rocks. 
Other vessels came into sight and were all dashed to pieces on our 
coast. So great was the desolation, it seemed as if the end of the 
world had come. Not one was saved. The rocks shivered them as 
if they had been glass, and cast the fragments over the cliffs. 

"As I was passing by a hollow in the cliff, I saw a large sail 
spread, as I thought, over a bale of merchandise. I lifted the sail 
and saw a heap of corpses. I was so frightened that I ran home, 
and found my mother and grandmother on their knees, praying for 
the shipwrecked sailors. 

" The third day, one other vessel came. This time some of the 
crew were saved. About ten men were brought off the rocks, all 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



23 



bruised or wounded. They were carried to Gruchy and nursed 
during more than a month, and after that taken to Cherbourg. But 
these unfortunate men were not yet saved from the sea. They 
embarked on a boat that was going to the Havre. A storm got up 
and they were all lost. 

"As for the dead, all the horses in the village were employed, 
during the first week, in bearing the corpses to the churchyard. 
They were buried in unconsecrated ground, and I was told they 
were not good Christians. 

" A few days after that, I picked up on the sand a small piece of 
carved wood, which must have belonged to one of the vessels which 
had been wrecked on our coast. When my mother saw it, she scolded 
me well, and making the sign of the cross, told me to take it back 
to the place where I had found it and to ask God's pardon for my 
theft. This I did at once, feeling much ashamed of my action. 

" Since that time I have seen many tempests at my home, but 
no other has ever left so awful a picture of destruction upon my 
mind, or so vivid an impression of the littleness of man and of 
the power of the sea." 



The horrors of that week might well have impressed 
any child, but perhaps few could have given so clear 
and exact a record of the shipwreck thirty or forty years 
afterwards. But it was already plain to more than one 
observing eye that Francois Millet was no ordinary 
child. 

When his first teacher, Abbe Herpent, left Greville for 
the neighbouring village of Heauville, he asked Jean 
Louis Millet to allow the boy to accompany him and go 
on with his lessons. Francois left home sadly enough, 
and felt in his exile " like Ovid among the Scythians." 
At the end of four or five months he came back to 
Gruchy for the New Year, and begged so hard to be 
allowed to stay at home, that the plan was abandoned. 
Fortunately, the new vicar, Abbe" Jean Lebrisseux, under- 
took to continue the child's education. He was as good 
as his word, and proved the best and kindest of friends 



24 



J. F. MILLET 



to Francois. He lent him books, helped him to read 
Virgil, and explained the Psalms to him. More than 
this, he encouraged the shy, thoughtful boy to talk freely 
upon all subjects. Francois poured out his heart to him, 
and told him how he loved to watch the sea and the 
sky, and how full of wonder and mystery the visible 
world about him seemed. The good Abbe" listened with 
kindly interest, but as he heard the child talk and saw 
that he was altogether unlike his comrades, he trembled 
to think of his future lot, and said with a sigh: "Ah! 
my poor child, you have a heart that will give you 
trouble. You do not know how much you will have to 
suffer." 

In after years these words often came back to Millet's 
mind, and he owned that Abbe" Lebrisseux had been all 
too true a prophet. Others shared the good priest's 
surprise, when they heard the lad talk of his favourite 
books. His great-uncle had left him a few theological 
books, and his grandmother had inherited several volumes 
of the Fathers and of the Port Royal writers from her 
brother, the miller of the Valine Hochet. Francois, who 
devoured every book that he could lay hands on, became 
thoroughly well versed in the Lives of the Saints, the 
Confessions of St. Augustine, and the writings of Bossuet, 
F6nelon, and Pascal. The Letters of St. Jerome were 
one of his favourite studies, and he knew Virgil and the 
Vulgate by heart. The verses of the Bible, he often said, 
seemed to him in those days " like gigantic monuments." 
One day a professor from Versailles paid a visit to 
Gr6ville, and attracted by Francois' thoughtful face, ques- 
tioned him about his studies. The boy's answers pleased 
him so much that he took him for a long walk in the 
fields, and encouraged him to open his heart freely on 
other subjects. The simple eloquence of Francois' language 
amazed him. "Go on, my boy, go on as you have begun," 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



25 



he said, when they parted ; and he told his friends that he 
had found a Norman peasant-child whose soul was poetry 
itself. 

But life at Gruchy was hard, and all hands were needed 
on the little farm. As the eldest son of a large family, 
Francois was soon called to leave his books and help his 
father and mother in their field work. With his own 
hands the future artist of the Travaux des Champs sowed 
and reaped the corn, thrashed and winnowed the grain, 
mowed the grass and turned the hay, ploughed the ground 
and tended the flocks in the sheep meadows along the 
seashore. Another form of labour which Millet has illus- 
trated in his drawings, was the gathering of varech, the 
seaweed with which the Greville peasants manured their 
stony soil. After a violent storm beds of seaweed were 
left upon the beach, and the whole village would hasten 
to the shore armed with long rakes to collect the varech, 
and bring it up the cliffs on their mules and ponies. 
Some of the Greville men were in the pay of the smug- 
glers, who at that time carried on a profitable trade along 
the coast. But the Millets would never have anything 
to do with them. " We never tasted that bread. It would 
have made my grandmother too miserable." 

On winter evenings the men sat round the fire, mend- 
ing their tubs or making baskets and chairs, while the 
women were busy spinning wool and flax, for clothes 
and tools were all made in the village. As they worked, 
they sang old songs and told weird tales of ghosts and 
hobgoblins that were handed down from one generation 
to another. In Millet's home, the old traditions of hos- 
pitality were practised in a truly patriarchal fashion. 
If a beggar passed that way, he had no need to ask 
leave to enter the house. The door was always open, 
and Francois remembered the stately curtsey with 
which his grandmother invited the poorest tramp to sit 



26 



J. F. MILLET 



down by the fire. Often these beggars brought her the 
latest news of her own family, and came to Gruchy 
Straight from the farm of the Jumelins, where they met 
with the same hospitable treatment. When Francois 
and his brothers grumbled because the beggars took up 
the largest share of the fire, the old lady told them to 
remember that they at least were warmly clad, while 
these poor people were all in rags. When supper was 
laid, she waited upon her guests first, and talked 
pleasantly with them, mingling good advice and religious 
exhortation with her remarks. " Whom the Lord loveth, 
He chasteneth," she would often say; "if you have to 
suffer here, God will not forget you when you appear 
before Him." In those hard times whole families were 
often reduced to beggary, and troops of children would 
come round crying, " Give us bread, of your charity, for 
the love of God." They were never sent empty away 
from the Millets' house, and Francois remembered how his 
grandmother would send him and his brothers with large 
baskets, filled with hunches of bread, to feed these hungry 
wayfarers, " to teach them," she said, " to be charitable." 

On Sundays after mass, at which Francois often officiated 
as server, or incense-bearer, his father kept open house, 
and liked to sit down to dinner with all his relations and 
friends. Afterwards, the village lads often went on ex- 
peditions to Cherbourg or other places in the neighbour- 
hood, and then Francois would shake off his dreamy ways 
and become the life of the party. His clever talent for 
mimicry made him popular with his companions, and there 
was one boy named Antoine, who was his inseparable 
friend. But, as a rule, he preferred to shut himself up 
in a bedroom or empty barn on Sunday afternoons, and 
read some favourite author, or else copy the prints out 
of the old family Bible. He was still, as his sister Emilie 
said, " unlike other boys." Not even his love for her 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



27 



could induce him to pay attention to his personal ap- 
pearance, or care about fine clothes. In vain she com- 
plained that the girls of the village laughed at his shabby 
jackets ; he only shrugged his shoulders, and said he 
liked old clothes best. All the same he was a favourite 
with most of them, and there was a general impression 
that Francois would some day become a remarkable 
man. 

So the lad grew up without a thought of leaving home, 
or a wish to lead any other existence than this to which 
he was born and bred. To the last he always declared 
that country life was, in his opinion, the only really en- 
viable one. And no doubt this peasant-life, as it was 
lived at GrOille in those days, retained a great measure 
of its primeval charm. The burden of daily toil was 
lightened by a sense of honest pride and independence, 
by the pleasures of out-door labour and the strong ties 
of family affection. The work might be hard and the 
fare scanty, but there was neither squalor nor vice to be 
ashamed of, neither dirt nor rags to hide. The simple- 
minded peasants bore the hardships and monotony of 
their daily lot without a murmur, and met death as 
calmly as they went out to work. And the secret of 
their quiet courage and uncomplaining patience lay in 
that humble and devout faith, that unshaken trust in a 
merciful God, and firm belief in a world beyond the grave, 
which had its roots deep down in the old order. In their 
patriarchal simplicity and Puritan virtue, these Norman 
peasants were not unlike the Scottish Presbyterians in 
their Highland homes; but there was a more picturesque 
element in their religion, together with a certain freedom 
and largeness, the result of a long inheritance of Catholic 
traditions. And, in the natural order of things, out of 
this life of plain living and high thinking, there sprang 
the great poem of peasant-life which was this, painter's 



28 



J. F. MILLET 



message to the world. The Sower and the Reapers, 
the Gleaners and the Angelus, are pages out of the 
same story. Millet's peasants are men and women of 
Norman birth, the cut of their clothes, the shape of their 
tools is that which he had seen and known from his 
childhood. And the sentiment that inspired these great 
works, the inborn consciousness of the dignity of labour 
and its eternal meaning, the ever-present sense of the 
mysteries of nature and the close relation of man with 
the infinite, had been learnt by the painter under his 
father's roof, in the home of his ancestors on the Norman 
shore. In after years, these scenes of his youth were 
never long absent from his thoughts. When he lay dying, 
the vision of his own green fields floated before his eyes, 
and one of the last pictures which he painted was that of 
the old grey church at Gr6ville, with the crosses mark- 
ing the graves of his fathers under the tall poplar trees, 
and the pale blue sea beyond. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



2 9 



IV 



THE genius of Millet revealed itself in his early years 
by remarkable powers of memory and observation. 
The child's passionate love of nature and his thoughtful 
mind, the seriousness of his impressions and the poetry of 
his soul were evident to all, but some time passed before 
the artistic faculty within him took any definite shape. 
His sister Emilie remembered how once, when Francois 
was a child of four or five, his father asked his little ones 
what professions they would choose when they grew up, 
upon which the boy replied with decision, " I mean to 
make pictures of men." 

By degrees the vague longings of the boy's heart, his 
wonder and delight in all living things, began to find 
expression. The sight of some old engravings in an 
illustrated Bible first moved him to take up his pencil, 
and before long he tried his hand at drawing the objects 
around him. During the noonday rest, while his father 
slumbered on a couch at his side, Francois studied the 
landscape from the window. He sketched the garden and 
the stakes, the sheep and cattle that were feeding in the 
pastures and the fields, with their wide horizon of sea and 
sky. Often Jean Louis, waking from his sleep, would 
get up and take a peep at the drawing on which the boy 
was engaged and return softly to his place without dis- 
turbing him, well pleased to see this new development of 
his son's powers. 

One clever sketch which Francois made of three men 
riding donkeys, who passed through Greville on market 



3Q 



J. F. MILLET 



days, was placed in the window of the blacksmith's shop, 
where it attracted the notice of these personages, who 
were all eager to know the name of the artist who had 
taken their portraits. After this, the boy made several 
drawings of Bible subjects, one of which, the Ten Wise 
and Foolish Virgins, was especially admired by his family 
and neighbours. 

But no one thought of making him an artist, and he 
himself never dreamt of leaving home or of following any 
profession save that of his father's, until one Sunday when 
he was about eighteen. That day, as he came back from 
church, the bent figure of an aged peasant who was 
going slowly home struck his fancy, and taking up a 
piece of charcoal he drew an exact likeness of the old man 
upon the wall. The foreshortening of the figure was so 
good, the movements and attitude were so exactly given, 
that his parents recognised the portrait at once. Every one 
laughed, but Jean Louis was deeply moved and pondered 
seriously over the matter. He had long watched the lad's 
growing talent, and now he felt that the moment had 
come when it would be wrong to hinder its progress. A 
family conclave was held, and the subject was seriously 
discussed by the elders. Francois was consulted, and 
owned that he would like to be a painter. Then his 
father turned to him with a kindness which the youth 
never forgot, and said gently, — 

" My poor Francois, I see that this idea has taken hold of 
you. I should like to have sent you long ago to learn this 
trade of a painter, which people say is such a fine thing, 
but it was impossible. You are the eldest of my boys, and 
I could not do without you ; but now that your brothers are 
growing up, I will no longer hinder you from learning 
what you are so anxious to know. We will go to Cher- 
bourg and see if you have really enough talent to be able 
to earn a living." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



31 



That simple and touching little speech settled the ques- 
tion. Soon afterwards, the father and son went to 
Cherbourg, and, by the advice of a neighbour, called upon 
an artist named Bon Dumoucel, but generally known as 
Mouchel, who had been a pupil of David, and gave lessons. 
Francois took with him as specimens of his work two 
drawings which he had lately finished. One represented 
a shepherd playing on the flute at the foot of a tree, while 
his comrade stood listening to the music on a grassy slope 
where the sheep were feeding. The shepherds wore the 
short vest and sabots of the Greville peasants, and the 
background was the apple-orchard close to Millet's home. 
The other drawing was taken from a parable in St. Luke's 
Gospel, and represented a peasant standing" at the door 
of his house, on a starry night, in the act of giving a 
loaf of bread to his neighbour, who was taking it eagerly 
from his hands. Underneath were the words of the text 
in the Vulgate version, — 

" Etsi non dabit Hit surgens eo quod amicus ejus sit, 
propter improbitatem tamen ejus surget, et dabit illi quot- 
quot habet necessarios." 

"Though he will not rise and give him, because he 
is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise 
and give him as many as he needeth." 

This is the drawing which Millet kept all his life in his 
atelier at Barbizon and of which he said to Sensier: 
"You know my first drawing; it is still hanging in my 
atelier. That was done in my old home, without the 
help of a master, without a model or a guide. I have 
never worked in any other way ; but as far as expression 
goes, I do not know that I can do better to-day." And 
Sensier, who had been familiar with this sketch of Millet's 
youth during thirty years and more, describes it as the 
work of a man who had already grasped the great issues 



32 



J. F. MILLET 



of art, its effects and resources — a drawing, in fact, which 
might have been the work of an old master. 

The Cherbourg artist saw at a glance the originality 
and merit of the country lad's productions. 

" You are laughing at me," he said roughly. " You 
don't mean to tell me that this young man made those 
drawings by himself! " 

" Yes, certainly," replied Jean Louis gravely. " I saw 
him make them myself." 

" I don't believe it," returned Mouchel. " I see that 
the method is awkward, but as for the composition — I 
repeat, it is impossible." 

Both father and son insisted with so much energy that 
the drawings were the unaided work of Francois that 
in the end the incredulous artist was compelled to believe 
them. Turning to Jean Louis, he exclaimed : 

" Well, then, all I can say is, you will be damned for 
having kept him so long at the plough, for your boy has 
the making of a great painter in him." 

And he agreed on the spot to take Francois as his 
pupil. So at eighteen, the lad of Gr£ville left his peasant- 
home to follow this new calling, and, like Giotto of old, 
the painter of the Sower and the Angelus was taken 
straight from the sheepfolds. 

His first teacher, Mouchel, was a very singular per- 
sonage. He led the life of a hermit in a cottage outside 
the town, had a passion for animals, and spent hours 
with a pet pig whose language he pretended to under- 
stand. He painted altar-pieces which he gave to the 
churches of the villages round, and began large can- 
vases which he never finished. But he had a sincere 
love of art and was a devoted admirer of Rembrandt 
and the Dutch masters. The best proof of his wisdom 
was the advice which he gave his new pupil : 

"Draw what you like," he said to young Millet; 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



" choose anything of mine that you like to copy ; follow 
your own inclination, and above all go to the Museum." 

Millet followed this advice exactly. He spent some two 
months with Mouchel, copying engravings and drawing 
from casts, and then finding that his eccentric teacher 
gave him no further hints, set to work to copy pictures 
in the Museum at Cherbourg. The town gallery con- 
tained several good paintings by Dutch and Flemish 
masters, and during the time of his apprenticeship at 
Cherbourg Millet copied many of these, including a 
Magdalen by Van der Weyden, an Entombment by Van 
Mol, and the fragment of an Assumption by Philippe de 
Champagne. His own talent began to attract the atten- 
tion of the leading citizens in Cherbourg. He entered 
the lists in a drawing competition and carried off the 
prize given by the Town Council. But when he had 
spent about a year in Cherbourg the course of his studies 
w T as rudely interrupted. He was at work in the picture 
gallery, when a servant arrived from Gruchy with the 
news of his father's sudden and dangerous illness. The 
young painter hurried home to find the parent he loved 
so well dying of brain fever. Jean Louis was already 
unconscious, but in his intervals of lucidity he recognised 
his beloved son, and would take no food or medicine 
saving from his hand. He repeatedly told him what 
great hopes he had formed of his future, and how much 
he wished to live to see him a famous artist. And once, 
a day or two before the end, he said with a sigh, " Ah ! 
Francois, I had hoped that we might one day have seen 
Rome together ! " He died on the 29th of November, 
1835, leaving his whole family in tears, and Francois 
worn out with grief and weariness. His youngest child 
was only a year old at the time. 

The care of the family and the management of the 
farm now devolved upon Francois. For a while he 

D 



34 



J. F. MILLET 



struggled bravely to take his father's place, but he was 
sick at heart and could not feel happy in the changed 
and saddened home. And then, too, art had taken hold 
of him and would not let him go back to the old life. 
He had drunk of the waters of Castaly and could not 
forget the taste of that enchanted stream. 

His grandmother noticed the lad's restlessness and soon 
discovered its cause. She remembered how anxious Jean 
Louis had been about his son's future, and resolved that 
no hindrance should be put in the boy's way. A message 
reached Gruchy to the effect that the notables of Cher- 
bourg hoped that he would persevere in his artistic career. 
Commissions were promised him if he would return, and 
an opening was offered him in the studio of the foremost 
painter in the town, Langlois de Chevreville. This de- 
cided the brave old grandmother. The will of her dead 
son was sacred, and must be followed. 

" My Francois," she said, " we must bow to the will of 
God. Your father, my Jean Louis, said you were to be 
a painter. Obey him and go back to Cherbourg." 

His mother was of the same mind, and Millet went 
back to Cherbourg, to resume his artistic education early 
in the spring of 1836. On the recommendation of the 
Mayor, he was admitted into Langlois' studio, where he 
worked assiduously during the next six months. His 
new master had studied in Paris under Gros, and after 
some years of travel in Greece and Italy had settled down 
at Cherbourg, where he became professor of drawing at 
the college, until his death in 1846. Like Mouchel, he 
recognised Millet's talent at once, and saw that he could 
teach him little. But he gave him drawings of Gros, 
and copies of the Louvre pictures to study, and sent him 
back to work in the Museum. There the young artist 
made a finished drawing of a large Adoration of. the 
Magi, a picture six feet wide and eight feet high. He 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS $5 

also helped Langlois on two large altar-pieces which 
he was painting in the Church of the Holy Trinity, and 
tried his hand at portraits and designs of his own inven- 
tion. 

He spent his evenings in reading, and devoured all the 
books which he could lay hands upon, from the Almanack 
boiteux of Strasbourg to Paul de Koch's novels. A young 
friend of his, M. Feuardent, who was, like himself, a 
native of Greville, and whose son afterwards married 
Millet's eldest daughter, was at this time a clerk in a 
library at Cherbourg. Through him Millet obtained 
access to the chief libraries of the town and read 
Homer and Shakespeare, Walter Scott and Byron, 
Milton's Paradise Lost and Goethe's Faust, the ballads of 
Schiller and the songs of BeTanger. Among modern 
French writers, Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo appealed 
to him with especial force. In Atala and Rene he found 
a regret for the past, a touching recollection of home 
and family, and at the same time, a bitter sense of 
the miseries of life, which expressed his own feelings, 
while Victor Hugo's great poem-pictures of the sea and 
sky stirred the depths of his soul. He often said that 
these lines were as inspiring as the language of the old 
Prophets, and wished that a collection of his poems 
on nature could be placed in the hands of every child 
in the national schools. Victor Hugo's description of the 
awful grandeur of the sea recalled those terrible scenes 
which he had witnessed on that All Saints' night at 
Greville, and he was often heard repeating aloud: 

" Oh ! combien de marins perdus dans les nuits noires ! 
O flots, que vous savez de lugubres histoires ! 
Flots cruels, redoutes des meres a genoux ! 
Vous vous les racontez en montant les marees, 
Et c'est ce qui vous fait ces voix desesperees 
Que vous avez le soir, quand vous venez vers nous ! " 



.. 



36 



J. F. MILLET 



Milton was another poet who impressed him deeply, 
although he could only read his great epics in a French 
translation, as in later years he was to read Dante. Scott 
was another of his favourite authors, and of all the 
Waverley novels the one he read the most often was Red- 
gauntlet. The weird figure of Wandering Willie, " born 
within the hearing of the roar of Solway, among the 
eternal sublimity of its rocky sea-shores and stormy 
waves," had the same fascination for him as it had for 
John Ruskin, with whom Millet had more than one point 
in common. 

Langlois, meanwhile, watched his pupil's development 
" with the surprise of a hen who has hatched an eagle." 
He felt that this village genius deserved a wider sphere 
and larger opportunities than he could find in the narrow 
limits of a country town ; and fired with the wish to send 
the young artist to Paris, he addressed the following 
petition to the Town Council of Cherbourg: 



"August 19th, 1836. 
" Gentlemen, — 

" I have the honour to beg you to examine three drawings 
which I have placed in your Council Hall. Those drawings are 
the unassisted work of my pupil, Francois Millet, of the Commune 
of Greville, and are the best proof of his decided taste for art, 
and rare talent. Many of you, gentlemen, are already acquainted 
with this young man. It was at your recommendation that he 
was placed under my charge. During the last six months his 
progress has been constant and rapid. In a few more days there 
will be nothing that I can tell him or show him. My pupil de- 
serves a wider sphere than our town, and better schools and models 
than we can give him. In short, he requires the advantages of 
Paris, if he is to learn historical painting, to which high vocation 
he is doubtless called among the number of the panci electi. But, 
alas ! young Millet has no resources, excepting his religious tone 
of art, high character, and excellent education, together with the 
esteem in which his family is held. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



37 



" The son of a widow, he is the eldest of eight children under 
age, and his mother's farm barely suffices to maintain this numerous 
and honourable family, in spite of the most careful economy. This 
being the case, I beg of you, gentlemen, in the interest of my 
country, if not to adopt young Millet, at least to give him the 
present help which he needs, and to recommend him to the 
General Council of the Department, in order that he may obtain 
the favour of the Minister of the Interior during his studies in 
Paris, where I think he ought to be sent before the end of the 
year. 

"Young Millet would require a sum of at least five or six 
hundred francs to begin his studies at Paris. But, gentlemen, you 
may be very sure, however little you may be able to do for him, 
your efforts will not fail to bear fruit, and the success of your 
protege will eventually prove his claim to the protection of the 
Government. 

" Allow me, gentlemen, for once, to lift the veil of the future, 
and to promise you a place in the memory of mankind, if you 
help in this manner to endow our country with another great 
man. 

" Hoping that my petition will meet with a happy result, both 
for the sake of my pupil and my own, I beg you to believe in 
our thankfulness, and to remain assured that ingratitude is never 
found among those whose life is devoted to the study of Beauty 
and of Truth. I remain, gentlemen, with the highest and most 
profound consideration, 

" Your devoted servant, 

" Langlois." 

Historical Painter and sometime Pensioner of V Ecole des 
Beaux Arts in Greece and Italv. 



The language of Langlois' request does credit to his 
generosity and foresight, although his pupil's fame was 
not to be won in the field of historic painting, which was 
in his eyes the only sphere worthy of the young artist's 
genius. 

The Town Councillors of Cherbourg, to do them justice, 
met his proposal in the same generous spirit, and unani- 
mously voted young Millet a grant of 600 francs. The 



38 



T. F. MILLET 



Council General of La Manche, to whom he was recom- 
mended by the Mayor, was less liberal, and began by 
refusing to give any help. This annoyed the Town 
Councillors, who pointed out that after all Millet was not 
a native of Cherbourg, and threatened to withdraw the 
promised subsidy. After protracted discussions, in 1838, 
the Council General of the Department agreed to give 
the painter an allowance of 600 francs, and the Town 
Council voted another 400 francs for his support. But 
ten councillors voted against the grant, and the motion 
would have been lost if it had not been for the courage 
of Millet's constant friend the Mayor, who gave a casting 
vote in his favour. The pension, however, was only once 
paid in full. The following year it was reduced to 300 
francs, and, at the end of two years, altogether withdrawn. 
For the present, however, all was well. The first in- 
stalment of the sum voted by the Town Council was paid 
down in the following January, and Millet went home 
to take leave of his friends before he started on his 
journey to Paris. That moment was a memorable one 
in the young artist's life. The step that he was about 
to take seemed a very grave one in the eyes of the 
whole village, most of all in those of his mother and 
grandmother, who looked on Paris as another Babylon, 
and feared to let their beloved child go forth alone to 
face the corruptions of the great and wicked world. But 
loyal to his dead father's wish, they brought out their 
small store of carefully hoarded savings, and, with many 
prayers and tears, sent him off on his journey. 

"Remember the virtues of your ancestors," were his 
grandmother's last words. " Remember how I promised, 
at the baptismal font, that you would renounce the devil 
and all his works, and know, my dear child, that I had 
rather hear that you were dead than that you had been 
unfaithful to the laws of God." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



39 



Millet's own heart was full, and he left home with 
strangely mingled feelings. He was sad at bidding fare- 
well to home and friends, and he felt some remorse at 
leaving these poor women to struggle alone for their 
living. But he longed to see Paris, which in his eyes 
seemed the centre of the world, the El Dorado of his 
dreams. He was eager to learn his trade, and to become 
great and famous in his turn. Above all, he longed to 
see the old masters and the noble works of art of which 
he had heard so much. And with 600 francs in his 
pocket, he felt as if all the treasures of the Arabian 
Nights were his, and he had nothing to do but to follow 
in the path that led to fame and fortune. 



" I thought all the time of my mother and grandmother, de- 
prived of the help of my youth and strong arm. It gave me 
a pang to think of them left weak and failing at home, when I 
might have been the staff of their old age; but their hearts were 
too full of motherly love for them to allow me to give up my 
profession for their sakes. And then youth has not all the sen- 
sitiveness of riper years, and a demon within seemed to push me 
towards Paris. I was ambitious to see and learn all that a painter 
ought to know. My Cherbourg masters had not spoilt me in this 
respect during my apprenticeship. Paris seemed to rne the centre 
of knowledge, and a museum of all great works. 

"I started with my heart very full, and all that I saw on the 
road and in Paris itself made me still sadder. The wide straight 
roads, the long lines of trees, the flat plains, the rich grass-pastures 
filled with cattle, seemed to me more like stage decorations than 
actual nature. And then Paris — black, muddy, smoky Paris — 
made the most painful and discouraging impression upon me. It 
was on a snowy Saturday evening in January that I arrived there. 
The light of the street lamps was almost extinguished by the fog. 
The immense crowd of horses and carriages crossing and pushing 
each other, the narrow streets, the air and smell of Paris seemed 
to choke my head and heart, and almost stifled me. I was seized 
with an uncontrollable fit of sobbing. I tried to get the better 
of my feelings, but they were too strong for me, and I could only 



4o 



J. F. MILLET : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



stop my tears by bathing my face with water at a fountain in the 
street. The sensation of freshness revived my courage. I stopped 
before a print-seller's window and looked at his pictures, while I 
munched my last Gruchy apple. The plates which I saw did not 
please me : there were groups of half-naked grisettes, women bathing 
and dressing, such as Deveria and Maurin then drew, and, in my 
eyes, seemed only fit for milliners' and perfumers' advertisements. 

" Paris appeared to me dismal and insipid. I went to an hotel 
garni, where I spent my first night in one continual nightmare. 
I saw again my native village, and our house, looking very sad 
and lonely. I saw my grandmother, mother and sister, sitting 
there spinning, weeping, and thinking of me, and praying that I 
might escape from the perdition of Paris. Then the old demon 
appeared again, and showed me a vision of magnificent pictures 
so beautiful and dazzling that they seemed to glow with heavenly 
splendour, and finally melt away in a celestial cloud. 

" But my awakening was more earthly. My room was a dark 
and suffocating hole. I got up and rushed out into the air. The 
light had come back and with it my calmness and force of will. 
But the sadness remained, and the words of Job rose to my lips : 
' Let the day perish wherein I was born and the night in which 
it was said. There is a man-child conceived.' " 



PART II 
PARIS 



" L'Art n'est pas une partie de plaisir. C'est un combat, un engrenage 
qui broie. . . . Je ne suis pas un philosophe, je ne veux pas suppri- 
mer la douleur, ni trouver une formule qui me rende stoi'que et indif- 
ferent. La douleur est, peut-etre, ce qui fait le plus fortement exprimer 
les artistes." 

- J. F. Millet. 



J 



J. F. MILLET : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



I 



" I "HERE is an interesting portrait of Millet at this 
-A- period of his life which gives us a good idea of 
the young painter when, at the age of twenty-two, he 
came to Paris, on the 31st of January, 1837. The young 
artist is represented in a white blouse, holding a small 
pipe in his hand. His long black locks fall in thick 
waves about his temples and on his neck. The large 
brown eyes are full of poetry and tenderness. The 
features are delicate and refined ; the expression grave 
and thoughtful ; but the broad forehead and square jaw 
already give signs of a power which time was to develop 
more fully. It is impossible to look at this portrait with- 
out recalling the words of the good priest of Greville : 
" Ah ! my poor child, you do not know how much you will 
have to suffer! " Certainly this gentle and dreamy youth 
was little fitted to make his way alone in the world, in 
a great and crowded city, where he was a complete 
stranger. The very sight of the crowded streets and 
hurrying throng of men, the noise and bustle, bewildered 
him, while the dirt and misery he saw oppressed his soul 
with melancholy. No wonder his heart sank within him, 
and he pined for the pure air and green fields of his 
home, for the familiar faces and kindly words which used 
to meet him at every step ! He was the most unpractical 
of men, unable to cast up the simplest sum, and alto- 
gether ignorant of the ways of the world. And to make 
matters worse, he was proud and sensitive to a fault. 



44 



J. F. MILLET 



He shrank from intercourse with strangers, had a horror 
of being patronised, and was so shy and awkward that 
he did not dare to ask his way in the streets for fear of 
being laughed at. His first impression of Paris had been 
a disagreeable one, but his dislike of his new surround- 
ings had been tempered by wonder and curiosity. 

" So I greeted Paris," he writes, " not with curses, but with a 
terror that arose from my incapacity to understand its material or 
spiritual life, and at the same time with a great wish and longing 
to see the pictures of those famous masters, of whom I had heard 
so much and seen, as yet, so little." 

But as he became familiar with Paris life, its atmo- 
sphere grew more and more distasteful to him. This 
serious and earnest young thinker, brought up by God- 
fearing parents in his country home, accustomed to soli- 
tary communings with nature under the starlit sky and 
by the wild seashore, and fed upon the Bible and writers 
of Port Royal, looked with instinctive horror at the 
licence and affectation of Parisian art. This reader of 
Virgil and Milton, whose whole soul worshipped truth, 
and whose natural taste led him to all that was sublime 
and heroic, recoiled from the brilliant emptiness and 
theatrical display of the romantic painters. He turned 
away with sickening disgust alike from the trivialities 
of contemporary art, and from the painted faces which 
he met in the streets. As ill-luck would have it, his first 
experience of lodgings and landladies proved singularly 
unfortunate. Yet his Cherbourg friends had done their 
best to help their young countryman, and had supplied 
him with letters of introduction which ought to have 
been of use. But by his own account, it must be con- 
fessed, he threw away more than one opportunity. 

First of all, he presented himself at the door of a 
maker of fans, who offered to take him en pension, but 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



45 



the conditions which he made did not meet with Millet's 
views, and he declined his proposals rather than submit 

to any restriction on his freedom. Monsieur L. , to 

whom he next addressed himself, seemed to him a grave 
and sensible man ; and since he made no tiresome con- 
ditions, Millet entered his house as a lodger, and was 
given a clean little room on the fifth floor, looking out 
on the roofs and chimneys of an inner court. But Mon- 
sieur L had a wife — a contingency for which Millet 

had not bargained — who certainly managed to make things 
very disagreeable for her lodger. The following graphic 
account of his experiences in her household was dictated 
by him to his biographer: 



"When I found myself in this little attic, with its marble chimney- 
piece and narrow window, I began to realize the cramped and 
dreary life of Paris, and I went to bed full of regret for my coun- 
try home, where air and light and space were given without mea- 
sure. Yet I managed to sleep. The next morning the maid told 
me dejeuner was served. I went down, and in a room covered 
with oil-cloth squares, as smooth and polished as ice, I found a 
table also covered with oil-cloth, on which my breakfast was laid. 
This consisted of a portion oi frontage de Brie, a roll, a few wal- 
nuts, and quarter of a bottle of wine. It seemed to me a meal 
hardly fit for a child. I was hungry enough to eat it all, but I 
thought to myself, ' If I leave nothing on my plate, I shall be 
looked upon as an ill-bred glutton ; but if I am content with half 
rations, I shall die of hunger.' But in the end regard for my repu- 
tation prevailed over my good appetite, and I went out famished. 
As this Carthusian meal was repeated every morning, I was al- 
ways famished, and could only appease the pangs of hunger by 
going to dine in the streets with a cab-driver who had recognised 
me as a fellow-countryman, and had taken me with him into a 
wine-shop. 

" I soon found that life at Monsieur L 's was very difficult. 

Madame L was an ill-tempered woman, who was never tired 

of trying to induce me to go with her to see the fine sights of 
Paris, the gay ballet-dancers and students' balls. She reproached 



46 



J. F. MILLET 



me constantly for my clumsy manners and shyness ; this made me 
uncomfortable in the house, and I was only happy on the quays. 
One day I went to the Chaumiere, but the dances of that rollick- 
ing company disgusted me. Of the two, I certainly preferred the 
boisterous joy of our country-folk, and of the tipsy fellows at 
home. 

" In the evening I returned to my cold and bare garret, and 
the next morning I went back to the Louvre. On arriving from 

Cherbourg, I had given Madame L charge of the box that 

held my clothes, together with my few hundreds of francs. At 
the end of a month, I found that I had spent about fifty francs 

in dinners and prints ; so one morning I asked Madame L 

to let me have five francs. She replied by making a terrible scene, 
and told me that if our accounts were made up I should certainly 
be in her debt, and that the services which she and her husband 
had rendered me greatly exceeded the sum which I had placed 

in her hands. ' I am well aware that I owe Monsieur L a great 

deal,' was the reply which I ventured to make, ' but a debt of 
that kind is not paid in money.' And I then threw down the five 
francs which she had brought me on the table, saying, ' At least 
now we are quits, madame.' That day I left the house with no- 
thing but the clothes which I wore on my back, and thirty sous in my 
pocket. For the next three days I took shelter in a working man's 
lodging, where they gave me credit, but I had to take care that my 
meals did not exceed my unfortunate thirty sous. I expected Mon- 
sieur L to come and give me an explanation. He did send 

me a letter, in which he said that he much regretted to hear what 
had happened, but that after this, I must understand that he could 
not ask me to return ; he would not, however, cease to regard me 
with esteem, and hoped to see me still and to indemnify me for the 
loss which I had suffered owing to his wife's injustice. At his re- 
quest I went to see him at his office. He renewed his protestations, 
but gave me nothing ; his wife was the mistress, and he himself 
was powerless. But three months afterwards, he did pay my lodging 

— a sum of about fifty francs. After this Madame L -, hearing 

that I went to see her husband, desired him to have nothing more 
to do with me. He obeyed very reluctantly, and begged me to give 
up my visits in order not to displease his wife. That was all the 

help and protection I got from Monsieur L ; but some time 

afterwards he was seized with remorse. A year later I fell ill, and was 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



47 



at death's door. A violent fever deprived me of consciousness, and 
I lay in a profound lethargy for twenty-one days. When I woke, I 
found myself lying in bed in the country, under the trees, and sur- 
rounded by strangers. By degrees my senses returned, and I slowly 
recovered strength. I found that I was staying with a friend of 
Monsieur L , who had removed me to Herblay, near Montmor- 
ency. I was well nursed there. It was in June, at haymaking time, 
and the first day that I took a walk in the garden I tried to mow 
the grass, but fell down in a fainting fit. This weakness troubled 
me greatly. I felt that I was no longer fit to be a country labourer, 
and the thought was very humiliating. I hurried indoors, overcome 
with grief, but in a few weeks I became quite well. It was Mon- 
sieur L who did me this service. How and wherefore, I do 

not know to this day, for I never saw him again. 

" I often tried to account for Madame L 's strange con- 
duct and her violent passion, but I never could succeed. At 
length, one day, I met her servant, and this is what he said to me : 
'Ah ! monsieur, you were too innocent ! You did not see what 
was happening. Madame is always reading bad books. Her occu- 
pations are strange, indeed, for a lady. I used to find Faublas and 
other novels by her bedside. And,' he added with a laugh, 'perhaps 
you disturbed her readings ! ' " 

The man's remark opened Millet's eyes. He under- 
stood that, " like Joseph, he had met with Potiphar's wife 
at the opening of his career." 

One of his Cherbourg friends, probably his master, 
Langlois, had given him a recommendation to M. George, 
an official of the Luxembourg Gallery. Millet called at 
his house the first week that he was in Paris and delivered 
the letter. M. George received him kindly, and asked 
what he could do for him, upon which Millet unrolled 
the large cartoon which he had copied from Jordaens' 
picture at Cherbourg. George showed it with an expres- 
sion of surprise to some other artists who were with 
him, and one of them exclaimed : " We did not know 
there was any one in the provinces who could draw as 
well ! " M. George proceeded to offer to introduce Millet 



4 8 



J. F. MILLET 



to other artists, and said he would show him the picture 
galleries, and help him to enter the Ecole des Beaux 
Arts. 

11 You must go in for the competitions," he said kindly, 
" and at this pace you will soon succeed." 

Millet thanked him and wished him good-morning, 
leaving his drawing in M. George's hands. He intended 
to return and avail himself of the professor's kind offers. 
But then he remembered what he had heard of the Ecole 
des Beaux Arts, of the competitions there, and of the 
regular course required of students who entered the 
school. The prospect alarmed him not a little. He 
shrank from the prospect of the constraint which would 
be imposed upon him, and from the thought of entering the 
lists with strangers who were far cleverer and quicker 
than himself. M. George's very kindness frightened him. 
He felt afraid of incurring obligations which he could 
not discharge, and made up his mind that he would not 
call upon him again. He did not even attempt to re- 
cover his cartoon, which, however, was returned to him 
some weeks later. 

Langlois had advised his pupil to enter the atelier of 
Paul Delaroche, at that time the foremost of the Romantic 
school of painters, and, as Millet found, the most popular 
master in Paris. But what he saw and heard of Dela- 
roche's art did not encourage him to approach him, and 
some weeks passed before he could bring himself to take 
the final step. Meanwhile, he had already found his way 
to the Louvre, and thus describes his first visit to the 
old masters which he had longed to see : 



" During the first days after my arrival in Paris, my fixed idea was 
to find out the gallery of old masters. I started early one morning 
with this intention, but as I did not dare ask my way, for fear of 
being laughed at, I wandered at random through the streets, hoping, 
I suppose, that the Musee would come to meet me ! I lost myself 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



49 



several days running in this fruitless search. During my wanderings 
one day I came across Notre Dame for the first time. It seemed 
to me less fine than the Cathedral of Coutances. I thought the 
Luxembourg a fine palace, but too regularly beautiful — the work, as 
it were, of a coquettish and mediocre builder. At length, I hardly 
know how, I found myself on the Pont Neuf, where I saw a 
magnificent pile, which, from the descriptions which had been given 
me, I supposed must be the Louvre. Without delay I turned my 
steps there and climbed the great staircase with a beating heart and 
the hurried steps of a man who feels that the one great wish of his 
life is about to be fulfilled. My hopes were not disappointed. I 
seemed to find myself in a world of friends, in the midst of my 
own kinsfolk. My dreams were at length realized. For the next 
month the old masters were my only occupation in the day-time. I 
devoured them all : I studied them, analysed them, and came back 
to them continually. The Primitives attracted me by their admir- 
able expression of sweetness, holiness, and fervour. The great 
Italians fascinated me by their mastery and charm of composition. 
There were moments when the arrows of St. Sebastian seemed to 
pierce me, as I looked at the martyr of Mantegna. The masters 
of that age have an incomparable power. They make you feel in 
turn the joys and the pains which thrill their souls. But when I 
saw that drawing of Michelangelo's representing a man in a swoon, 
I felt that was a different thing. The expression of the relaxed 
muscles, the planes, and the modelling of that form exhausted by 
physical suffering gave me a whole series of impressions. I felt 
as if tormented by the same pains. I had compassion upon him. 
I suffered in his body, with his limbs. I saw that the man who 
had done this was able, in a single figure, to represent all the good 
and evil of humanity. It was Michelangelo ! That explains all. 
I had already seen some bad engravings of his work at Cherbourg ; 
but here I touched the heart and heard the voice of him who has 
haunted me with such power during my whole life." 

The words of the young French artist are curiously 
similar to those in which Mr. Ruskin speaks of Michel- 
angelo on his first visit to Florence, in 1840: " I saw at 
once in him that there was emotion and human life more 
than in the Greeks, and a severity and meaning which 
were not in Rubens." 



5Q 



J. F. MILLET 



"After that," Millet continues, "I went to the Luxembourg, but, 
with the exception of Delacroix's pictures, which struck me as great, 
alike in gesture, in invention and richness of colour, I saw nothing 
remarkable. The figures were like waxwork, the costumes conven- 
tional, and both invention and expression dreary in the extreme. 

" There I saw the Elizabeth and Les Enfants (TEdouard of 
Delaroche. I had been advised to go to Delaroche's studio ; but 
none of those pictures gave me the least wish to become his pupil. 
I could see nothing in them but cheap illustrations on a large 
scale, and theatrical effects. There was no genuine emotion ; no- 
thing but posing and stage-scenes. The Luxembourg first gave me 
a strong dislike to the theatre; and, although I was not insensible 
to the famous dramas which were to be seen in Paris, I must say 
that I have always retained an invincible feeling of repulsion for the 
exaggerations, falseness and grimaces of actors and actresses. Since 
those days, I have seen something of people of this sort in private life, 
and I am convinced that by constantly trying to put themselves into 
the place of others they lose the sense of their own personality, 
and can only speak in the character of the parts they play. So in 
the end they become deprived of truth and common sense, and lose 
the simple sentiment of plastic art. It seems to me, that if your 
art is to be true and natural, you must avoid the theatre. 

" There were moments when I had a great wish to leave Paris 
and to return to my own village, so tired was I of the lonely life 
that I led. I saw no one ; I did not speak to a soul, and I hardly 
dared ask a question of any one, so great was my fear of ridicule, 
and yet people never troubled themselves about me. I had the awk- 
wardness which I have never lost, and which still distresses me when 
I am obliged to speak to a stranger, or make the simplest inquiry. 
I had a great mind to walk my ninety leagues at a stretch, like my 
Uncle Jumelin, and say to my family, ' I have come home, and have 
given up painting.' But the Louvre had taken hold of me. I 
went back there and felt comforted. Fra Angelico filled my soul 
with heavenly visions, and when I was alone in my garret I thought 
of nothing but those gentle masters who painted human beings 
so full of fervour that they become beautiful, and so nobly beau- 
tiful that we feel they must be good. People have said that I 
was very fond of the eighteenth century masters because at one 
time I painted pastiches a. la Boucher, or Watteau. It is a mistake. 
My taste in this respect has never changed. I have always had a 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



51 



very strong dislike to Boucher. I saw all his skill and talent, but I 
could not understand his choice of subjects, or look at his miserable 
women without feeling what a poor kind of nature he chose to repre- 
sent. Boucher did not paint naked women, but little undressed 
creatures. It was not the lavish display of Titian's women, proud of 
their beauty and revealing their charms in the confidence of their 
power. There is nothing to say against that kind of art. It is not 
chaste, but it is strong and great by virtue of its womanly power of 
attraction. That is great and good art. But these poor ladies 
of Boucher, with their slim legs, their feet crushed in high-heeled 
shoes, their tight-laced waists, their useless hands and bloodless 
necks, repelled me. When I stood before Boucher's Diane, which 
was always being copied in the Louvre, I recalled the marquises of 
his day, whom he painted from no very worthy motive, and whom 
he undressed and placed in graceful poses in the studio, which he 
afterwards transformed into a landscape. From this Diane I turned 
back to the Diane Chasseresse of the Greeks, so beautiful and noble 
in her perfect form. Boucher, after all, was merely a seducer. 

"Nor was Watteau the man for me. He was not an artist of 
Boucher's stamp, but his theatrical little world distressed me. Of 
course, I saw all the charm of his palette, and the delicacy of his 
expression, even the melancholy of these little actors who are con- 
demned to smile. But the idea of marionettes always came back 
to my mind when I looked at his pictures, and I used to say to 
myself that all this little troupe would go back to their box when 
the spectacle was over, and lament their cruel destiny. 

" I preferred Lesueur, Lebrun and Jouvenet, because they seemed 
to me very powerful. Lesueur made a deep impression upon 
me, and I think he is one of the great souls of our School, as 
Poussin is its prophet, sage, and philosopher, and at the same 
time the most eloquent exponent. I could spend my life before 
Poussin's works, without ever getting tired of him. 

" So I lived in the Louvre, in the Spanish Museum, the Mustie 
Standish, or among the drawings, and my attention was always 
fixed upon those canvases, where thought was expressed truthfully 
and forcibly. I liked Murillo's portraits, Ribera's Saint Barthehmy 
and Centaurs ; I liked everything that was strong, and would have 
given all Boucher's works for one nude figure by Rubens. Rem- 
brandt I only learned to know later. He did not repel me, but he 
blinded me. It seemed to me that it would be necessary to go 



52 



J. F. MILLET 



through a course of serious study before you could enter thoroughly 
into the genius of this man. I only knew Velasquez, who is held 
in such high repute to-day, through his Infanta in the Louvre. He 
is certainly a painter of high degree and of the purest race, but 
his compositions seem to me poor. Apollo and Vulcan is weak 
in point of invention, his Winders are not winding anything ; but 
as a painter he is no doubt strong. 

" I never tried to copy any of these masters. It seemed to me 
that any copy of them would be a failure, and must want the 
spontaneous charm and fire of the original. But, on one occasion, 
I spent the whole day before Giorgione's Concert Champetre — I was 
never tired of that. It was already past three o'clock when I took 
up a small canvas belonging to a comrade, and began to make a 
sketch of the picture. Four o'clock struck, and the terrible on 
ferme of the keepers turned me out ; but I had succeeded in making 
a sketch sufficiently good to please me as much as a run into the 
country. Giorgione's landscape had given me the key of the fields, 
and I had found consolation in his company. After that I never 
tried to make copies, even of my own pictures. The fact is, I am 
incapable of doing that kind of thing. 

" Next to Michelangelo and Poussin, I have always loved the 
early masters best, and have kept my first admiration for those sub- 
jects as simple as childhood, for those unconscious expressions, for 
those beings who say nothing, but feel themselves overburdened 
with life, who suffer patiently without a cry or complaint, who 
endure the laws of humanity, and without even a thought of ask- 
ing what it all means. These men never tried to set up a 
revolutionary art, as they do in our days." 

These reflections reveal the character of the man, and 
help us to understand his dislike of Paris, a feeling which 
lasted to the end of his life. His own passionate sincerity, 
and habit of seeking after essential truth, made him hate 
all artificial conventions, and look with positive aversion 
on every form of theatrical display. But all great and 
serious art had for him an indescribable fascination. In 
the old Florentines he discovered at once kindred spirits, 
men of his own flesh and blood. These radiant saints with 
parted lips and upturned eyes, these visions of the flowery 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



53 



meadows of Paradise, spoke to him in the language which 
he had learnt at his grandmother's knee ; they were in- 
spired by the same simple and ardent faith, the same lofty 
hopes. From the elegant trivialities of the eighteenth 
century he turned with relief to the perfect forms and 
noble purity of classic art, to the Diana of the Louvre 
and the Venus of Milo, and to the Achilles, which seemed 
to him the ideal of manly grace and beauty. Among 
French artists, Poussin and, curiously enough, Lesueur, 
whose long series of monotonous works have little interest 
for most of us, were his favourites. For Poussin's work 
especially he had the deepest admiration, and was never 
tired of dwelling on his lofty intention and grandeur of 
composition. Even Titian and Rubens appealed to him 
more than Watteau and Boucher. Among contemporary 
painters Delacroix alone impressed him. Rembrandt, he 
owned, took him by storm. He bowed to his greatness, 
although as yet he could hardly grasp all his meaning. 
But Giorgione charmed him with the poetry of his in- 
vention, with his green pastures and running waters ; and 
in Michelangelo he found a consummate rendering of 
profound emotion and deep meaning beyond all that he 
had ever dreamt. In him he recognised at once the guide 
and master whom he sought, whose presence was to follow 
him to the end of his days — " Celui qui me hanta toute 
ma vie." 

He no longer tried to copy these masters, he lived with 
them. He spent his days in the Louvre, and his evenings 
reading Vasari in the library of Sainte Genevieve. He 
studied the drawings of Lionardo and Albert Durer, the 
designs of Jean Cousin and Nicolas Poussin. Above all, 
he learnt all that he could discover about Michelangelo, 
and was never tired of studying the life of the great 
Florentine, whose work remained for him the highest 
expression of art. 



54 



J. F. MILLET 



II 



THE choice of a master now became a necessity if 
the young student was to learn his trade. For some 
time Millet wavered. The names of the leading Paris 
masters were unknown to him. He had not even seen a 
single work by Ingres. Delaroche was the only master 
whom he knew by reputation, and his pictures did not 
by any means attract him. At length, however, after 
spending some weeks in daily visits to the Louvre, and 
in reading Vasari in the library of Sainte Genevieve, he 
determined to take the final plunge. 

"I had," he writes, "a great fear of this unknown teacher, and 
I put off the evil day as long as possible. But one morning I rose 
with my mind made up and determined to venture all. To put it 
briefly, I obtained admission to the atelier of Paul Delaroche, the 
painter who was generally recognised as foremost among living 
artists. I entered his studio with a shiver — this world was so new 
to me ; but by degrees I became used to it, and in the end I was 
not altogether unhappy there. I found some kindly souls, but a 
style of wit and manner of speech which in my ears sounded a 
tedious and incomprehensible jargon. The famous puns of Dela- 
roche's atelier were the rage of the student-world. Everything was 
discussed there — even politics ; and I could not endure to hear 
them chatter about the ' phalanstery ' ! But at last I began to take 
root, and to feel a little less home-sick." 



If the young men of Delaroche' s studio astonished 
Millet, he on his part puzzled his new comrades not a 
little. They knew not what to make of this strange, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



55 



silent, country lad, with his Herculean frame and his 
solemn face. They nicknamed him "Jupiter in Sabots," 
and " The Wild Man of the Woods." But he spoke seldom, 
and seemed to heed their gibes as little as he did his 
teacher's praise. Once, when the mockers went too far 
in their rough pleasantry, Millet clenched his fists — a 
threat which had the effect of quickly silencing the 
offenders, and after that he was left in peace. One or 
two of his comrades made friends with him, but for the 
most part they looked upon him as an eccentric indi- 
vidual, who dared to set up his opinion against the laws 
of academic art, and refused to join in the universal 
worship of their master's style. 

Meanwhile, the originality of his studies, and his 
vigorous drawing, had already attracted Delaroche's notice. 
He looked for a long time at Millet's first drawing — a 
sketch of the statue of Germanicus, which was regularly 
copied once a fortnight by the students — and said : 

" You are a new comer ? Well, all I can say is, you 
know too much already, and yet not enough." 

Another master, Couture, who directed studies from 
the undraped model, paused with a look of surprise before 
Millet's first drawing, and said : 

" Hold, nouveau ! Do you know that your figure is 
very good?" 

He had hardly touched a brush; but the first day that 
he painted a figure from a model Delaroche said to him : 

"I can see that you have painted a good deal." 

" And yet," Millet observes, " I had only tried to ex- 
press as strongly as possible the joints and the muscles, 
without troubling myself with the new medium of colour 
to which I was so little accustomed." 

After that he was treated with more respect by his 
fellow-students, although there were still some among 
them- who declared that Millet's figures were insolently 



56 



J. F. MILLET 



true to nature ; and one gay youth, who prided himself 
on being a pet of the master, was never tired of teasing 
him about his country origin. "Are you going to give 
us some more of your famous figures — some more men 
and women after your fashion?" he would say. "You 
know the patron does not care for your dishes a la 
mode de Caen 7 " 

To which Millet replied, "What do I care for that? 
I did not come here to please any one ; I came here to 
learn drawing from antiques and models, and for no 
other purpose. Do I trouble my head about your butter- 
and-honey dolls ? " 

Delaroche himself could not understand this strange 
pupil. Millet puzzled him, as he had puzzled both his 
earlier teachers. He would have liked to employ him 
as his assistant in the great works upon which he was 
engaged, but Millet was of too independent a nature to 
allow himself to be dragged at the chariot-wheels of a 
painter whom he despised. Sometimes the master held 
up his work as an example to the whole atelier ; at other 
times he criticised' it severely. One day he said that he 
needed a rod of iron to train him in the right methods ; 
another, he turned to him with the words: "Well, go 
your own way; you are so new that I have nothing to 
say to you." 

On one occasion "Prometheus Chained to the Rock" 
was the subject given for composition. Millet represented 
him as the victim of the wrath of Jupiter, hanging on 
the edge of an abyss, and uttering a cry of revolt against 
the heavenly powers. "I should like to make others 
feel that his sufferings are eternal," he said, as the 
students pressed around to gaze at this figure which took 
their breath away. "iEolus Letting the Winds Loose" 
was the subject of another striking composition. " There 
goes Millet, as usual," cried a jeering comrade, " doing 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



57 



what he thinks chic, and inventing muscles out of his 
own head ! " 

But Delaroche, who entered the atelier at that moment, 
interrupted him. " He is right," he said, pointing to 
Millet. "He paints from memory, and makes good use 
of his recollections. Do as he does, if you can." 

Besides his studies at Delaroche's atelier, Millet worked 
hard in the wretched garret where he lodged, on the 
Quai Malaquais. He painted portraits of his neighbours 
for a few francs each. Porters and maidservants, coal- 
carriers, and on one occasion a daughter of his old friend 

the concierge at Monsieur L , all sat to him in turn. 

But he was often at his wits' end for money, and at one 
time he had to give up going to Delaroche's atelier for 
want of means to pay the yearly fee of ioo francs. The 
master missed him from his accustomed place, and sent 
him word to come and see him. Millet obeyed the sum- 
mons, and found Delaroche at work on his great fresco 
of the Hemicycle, in the hall of l'Ecole des Beaux Arts. 

"Why do you never come to the atelier now?" the 
painter asked in a friendly tone, offering him a cigarette 
as he spoke. 

" Because, sir, I am unable to pay the fees," replied 
Millet. 

" Never mind that ! " replied Delaroche. " I do not 
wish you to leave. Come all the same, and I will speak 
to Poisson (the porter of the studio). Only say nothing 
about it to the other fellows, and draw just what you 
like — big subjects, figures, studies, whatever you fancy. I 
like to see your work ; you are not like the rest of them ; 
and then I wish to speak to you about some work in 
which you can be of use to me." 

Millet was touched by this unexpected kindness on the 
painter's part, and went back to the atelier. But the 
historical compositions in academic style that were then 



58 



J. F. MILLET 



in fashion seemed to him every day more wearisome. 
An artist of his power could not fail to produce striking 
work; but in the conventional figures and heavy, sombre 
colouring of Millet's compositions at that period, it was 
difficult to discern the germ of his future greatness. 
Still he persevered, and in the summer of 1838, he entered 
the lists for the Prix de Rome. The originality of his 
composition attracted Delaroche's notice, and pricked the 
master's conscience, for he had already promised to use 
his interest on behalf of one of his favourite pupils — a 
student named Roux ; so he sent for Millet, and said to 
him : 

" You wish to win the Prix de Rome?" 

" Certainly," replied Millet, " or I should not have 
entered my name." 

" Your composition is very good," said Delaroche ; 
"but I must tell you that I am anxious to see Roux 
nominated this time. Next year I will promise to use 
all my influence on your behalf." 

This frank declaration was enough for Millet. He left 
Delaroche's atelier for good, and determined never again 
to look to others for help or advancement, but to rely 
solely upon his own efforts. 

He always declared afterwards that he had learnt 
little or nothing from Delaroche. No doubt the instruc- 
tion which he received there, and the tendencies of the 
place, were alike contrary to the natural bent of his 
genius. 

"I came to Paris," he said in later years, "with my 
ideas upon art already formed, and I found nothing there 
to make me change my mind. I have been more or less 
attracted by different masters and methods, but I have 
never altered my idea of the fundamental principles of 
art as I learnt them first in my old home, without teacher 
or models." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



59 



None the less, he had found in Paris exactly the training 
which he required. Genius has a marvellous power of 
assimilation, and discovers the food needed for its develop- 
ment in waste places and barren ground. Even the 
months that Millet spent in Delaroche's atelier, working 
on the academic designs which his soul abhorred, were 
not thrown away. He learnt that thorough mastery of 
means which was to stand him in good stead hereafter, 
and acquired that knowledge of the human frame which 
practice alone can give. He learnt, too, how to reject 
the evil and to choose the good, and went on his way 
with his hatred of convention and artifice and passionate 
love of sincerity more deeply rooted than ever. 

During the next two years he still worked diligently at 
the academies of models kept by Suisse and Boudin, and 
drew both from the antique and from living models. He 
had made friends with one of the students in Delaroche's 
atelier, named Louis Marolle, the son of a polish manu- 
facturer, whose parents were in easy circumstances, and 
who did not depend entirely upon painting for his bread. 
Marolle, himself a clever and cultivated youth, was early 
struck by Millet's powers of brain and independence of 
character. "It seems to me that with a little practice," 
Millet said to him one day, " you and I would soon know 
as much as any of our teachers." 

So they settled together in a little atelier of their own, 
No. 13, Rue de l'Est, at the corner of the Rue d'Enfer 
and the Rue Val-de-Grace. There they painted portraits, 
and quarrelled over the books they read, and led a free 
Bohemian life, and were neither dull nor yet unhappy. 
Millet's new friend was in many respects curiously un- 
like himself. Marolle was a thorough Parisian, who 
admired the Romantic schools in poetry as w T ell as in 
painting, declaimed Alfred de Musset's verses at all 
hours of the day, and tried to write poems of his own 



6o 



J. F. MILLET 



in the same style. Millet, on the contrary, had little 
sympathy with Musset, and criticised the tendencies of 
his art severely. "He puts you into a fever, it is true," 
he said to Marolle ; " but he can do nothing more for 
you. He has undoubted charms, but his taste is capri- 
cious and poisoned. All he can do is to disenchant and 
corrupt you, and at the end leave you in despair. The 
fever passes, and you are left without strength — like a 
convalescent who is in need of fresh air, of the sunshine, 
and of the stars." And he bade his friend go back to 
nature and to reason — to those great poets of old, who 
had fathomed the deep things of life — to Homer and 
Virgil ; above all, to the Bible which still remained in 
his eyes the book of all books, where the artist will find 
the most pathetic of pictures, painted in the noblest 
words. 

Marolle listened with a smile, and shrugged his shoul- 
ders. And yet at times a conviction would cross his mind 
that his peasant-friend might be right, and that this, 
after all, might be the more excellent way. He himself 
tried his hand in turn at water-colours and oils ; he en- 
graved plates, and wrote verses, but seldom achieved 
any serious work ; and there were moments when he 
was half inclined to envy his companion, and would say 
to Millet: 

" You think that I am a lucky man because I need 
not earn my bread; but it is you who are really the 
fortunate one! You have kept your first impressions of 
nature, and the deep emotions of youth. I have never 
felt anything, or cared for anything, except the Faubourg 
Saint-Marceau ! " 

At the same time, Marolle's practical turn of mind 
made him of great use to Millet. He accompanied him 
on his nightly visits to the library of Sainte Genevieve ; 
he asked for the books which Millet wanted, helped him 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



61 



in his researches, and became, in fact, the link between 
the shy, reserved student and the outer world. Through 
Marolle, Millet learnt to know other artists, to look more 
kindly upon the world in general, and to take a more 
cheerful and hopeful view of the future. Without the 
help of this true and loyal friend his courage might 
have failed him in the hard battle which he had to fight 
during these long and lonely years. 

In 1839, his Cherbourg pension had been withdrawn, 
and his mother and grandmother could ill afford to help 
him. Under these circumstances he consulted Marolle as 
to the best means of earning a livelihood, and proposed 
to paint a series of peasant-subjects. 

" Supposing I were to draw figures of men at work 
in the fields?" he said — "a man mowing or making 
hay, for instance? The action is fine." 

"Yes," replied Marolle, "but you will never sell 
them." 

" What do you say to pictures of fauns and nymphs 
— woodland scenes?" said Millet. 

" Who do you think has ever heard of a faun in 
Paris?" returned Marolle. 

" Well, then," said Millet gloomily, " what would you 
have me do? Tell me, for I am at my wits' end." 

" Boucher and Watteau are popular," said Marolle ; 
" coloured illustrations of nude women, for instance. Do 
some pastiches in that style." 

Millet shook his head. Such subjects w r ere little to his 
taste. As a last resource he painted a little picture of 
Charity Feeding her Children, and took it himself to the 
dealers. It was in vain. No one would offer him a single 
franc for his picture. He brought it home sadly, and 
said to Marolle : 

"You were right. Tell me what subjects to choose, 
and I will paint them." 



62 



J. F. MILLET 



And so the future painter of the Sower was driven by 
sheer necessity to compose little pastels in the style of 
Watteau and Boucher, to which Marolle gave names of 
his own invention, such as A Music Lesson, The Old- 
Man's Calendar, A Girl reading a Novel, A Soldier making 
Love to a Nurserymaid, A Day at Trianon. Now and then 
Millet would attempt a Bible subject — Ruth and Boas in 
the Harvest Field, or Jacob in Labans Tents — but they 
seldom met with success. Marolle would himself take 
his friend's pastels to the shops, and do his best to sell 
them. When everything else failed, Millet painted por- 
traits for five or ten francs, and as soon as the money 
was paid down hastened to get a meal at the nearest 
restaurant. In those days he breakfasted on a roll and 
a glass of water, and as often as not had to go without 
his dinner ; but he never complained, and never begged. 
And on the rare days when fortune smiled upon him, 
and he sold a pastel for 20 francs, he threw up his cap, 
and rejoiced to think the day was coming when he 
would be free to go back to the impressions of his youth, 
and to paint pictures of GreJville and of peasant life. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



63 



III 



ART was at a low ebb when Millet came to Paris some 
- fifty years ago. The jury of the Salons was not 
elected by the artists themselves, but was an official body 
which held tyrannical sway over the progress of painters, 
and closed the doors upon all who ventured to depart from 
the most rigid academic rules. " In the Ecole des Beaux 
Arts," wrote Thackeray in 1838, "all is classical: Orestes 
pursued by every variety of Furies ; numbers of wolf-suck- 
ing Romuluses ; Hectors and Andromaches in a complica- 
tion of parting embraces." The gallant effort made by the 
men of 1830, with Rousseau, " the apostle of truth in land- 
scape," at their head, had been apparently crushed. In 1835 
the works of Delacroix, of Decamps and Corot, as well as 
two of Rousseau's finest paintings, were all rejected. For 
the next thirteen years the doors of the Salon were closed 
upon the last-named painter, and the systematic exclusion 
of his landscapes won for him the name of " le Grand 
Refuse." In the words of a well-known critic, M. Edmond 
About, "His incontestable talent was contested by every 
body." 

The moment was an unfortunate one for an unknown 
artist to make his appearance, but Millet ventured to send 
two portraits to the Salon of 1840. One, a likeness of his 
friend Marolle, was rejected. The other, a portrait of a 
Cherbourg friend, Monsieur L. F- — — , in the artist's own 
opinion the poorer of the two, was accepted. With this 
portrait, painted in the dull and heavy tones which the 



wmm 



6 4 



J. F. MILLET 



young artist had acquired in Delaroche's studio, Jean 
Francois Millet made his first appearance in public. It 
was a proud day for the painter of five-and-twenty, and 
when he went home that summer, his mother and grand- 
mother told him how they had read his name in the Cher- 
bourg papers, and looked upon him as a hero. Ever since 
he had left home three years before, they had followed his 
steps anxiously, and watched eagerly for each post which 
brought news of their absent boy. His young brother, 
Pierre, remembers still the grief with which the whole 
family heard of Francois' illness, and the impatience with 
which each post was awaited. And now he was with them 
again, unchanged and unspoilt, the same Francois that he 
had been of old, wearing his old blouse and sabots, and 
with his long wavy hair falling on his shoulders. His 
mother, to tell the truth, would have liked to see him 
dressed " like a gentleman," in his Paris clothes, and com- 
plained of his rustic appearance, but nothing gave him 
greater pleasure than to feel himself a peasant again. He 
liked to join the labourers at work, to reap the corn and 
bind the sheaves and share their brown bread and cider. 
He helped in building a wall, and said, as he handled the 
mortar and plaster, that if he had not become an artist, 
he should certainly have been a mason. Above all, he 
loved to sit by the open hearth watching the wood fire 
crackle and blaze in the great chimney corner, and seeing 
its flames reflected in the brass jugs and pails on the shelves 
around the room, and the flower-painted china which was 
his mother's pride. 

The sight of these familiar scenes and the joy of set- 
ting his foot once more on his native heath made Millet 
seriously think of settling in the neighbourhood, and, if 
possible, obtain work at Cherbourg. He spent several 
weeks at Gruchy, painting portraits of his friends and 
relatives, amongst others, of Monsieur and Madame Feu- 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



65 



ardent and their brothers, of a Doctor Simon, at Vauville, 
and of an old maidservant who lived in the family of an 
Eculleville doctor called Asselin. The portrait of this old 
countrywoman, La Vieille Fanchon, excited great admira- 
tion, and was the first revelation of Millet's power in 
bringing out the character and habits of the peasant race 
which he understood so well. But he bestowed even 
greater pains and thought on another portrait, that of his 
grandmother, which he painted about this time. " I want 
to show her soul," he said. This portrait is still in the 
possession of his younger brother, Jean Louis, who owns 
a farm near Greville. Another life-size drawing of his 
grandmother, the one which Sensier describes as show- 
ing her strong character and austere religious spirit, 
has passed into the hands of a branch of the family re- 
siding at Les Prieux, a village in the neighbourhood of 
Greville. At his mother's suggestion he also painted por- 
traits, on oiled paper, of his seven brothers and sisters, 
which have unfortunately perished. Early in 1841, Millet 
took up his abode at Cherbourg, where he spent several 
months studying in the Museum and painting portraits of 
his friends. The most remarkable work which he executed 
at this time was a Martyrdom of Sainte Barbe, a picture 
strongly marked by his reminiscences of the Primitives in 
the Louvre, and representing the corpse of the saint borne 
away by angels into heaven. This was purchased by 
Doctor Asselin, the old friend of Millet's family, for 300 
francs. He also painted several small subjects which 
were suggested by the sight of the Cherbourg fishermen, 
such as a young fisherman rescuing his comrade from 
drowning, sailors mending their sails, fishermen at their 
boats. But these pictures did not sell, and Millet found 
himself reduced to paint sign-boards for shops, and he 
executed a life-size figure of a milkmaid for a milliner's 
shop, a horse for a veterinary surgeon, a sailor for a sail- 

F 



66 



J. F. MILLET 



maker, and, finally, a battle-piece for the manager of a 
travelling circus, who paid him thirty francs in coppers. 

His old patrons, the Town Councillors of Cherbourg, 
commissioned him to paint a portrait of a former Mayor, 
M. Javain, and offered him the sum of 300 francs. But 
since Millet had never seen the Mayor, and had only a 
miniature of M. Javain as a young man to work from, the 
task was by no means easy. To add to his difficulties, he 
had to work in a public hall and to listen to all the advice 
and criticisms offered by the late Mayor's family and 
friends, who took great offence at his employing a former 
servant of M. Javain to sit to him as a model for the hands 
of the city magnate. When the portrait was finished, the 
Town Council declared that it was a very bad likeness of 
the late Mayor, that the face wore an expression of severity 
which by no means resembled him, and declined to pay the 
sum which had been agreed upon. After much wrangling 
and many weeks of vexatious delays, the Council finally 
offered the painter the sum of 100 francs, a proposal 
which he rejected with scorn, telling them that since 
they had withdrawn their original offer, he would make 
them a present of the portrait. 

The portrait of the ex-Mayor was accordingly hung in 
the Town Hall of Cherbourg, and Millet was left without 
a penny for his pains and with his reputation seriously 
impaired. Even his old teacher, Langlois, is said to have 
turned against him and to have pronounced the pupil, whom 
he had once thought so full of promise, to be no better than 
a barbarian. It was now plain that there was no opening 
for him in his native Normandy. A prophet, he was con- 
vinced, is without honour in his own country, and much as 
it grieved him to leave the mother and grandmother who 
clung to him so fondly, he determined to return to Paris 
and once more seek his fortune in the great city. But 
this time he felt he could not go alone. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



6 7 



Among the portraits which he painted that summer at 
Cherbourg was one of a pretty young dressmaker, Made- 
moiselle Pauline Virginie Ono, with whose parents he 
lodged. Millet himself was a tall, handsome young man 
of six-and-twenty, with a mass of dark wavy locks and 
deep blue eyes. He had made himself a name, and what 
was more in a woman's eyes, he was unfortunate and had 
been badly treated by the Cherbourg authorities. Made- 
moiselle Pauline listened to his story and pitied him with 
all her heart. In November they were married at Cher- 
bourg, and Millet took his young wife with him to Greville. 
Pierre Millet describes her as a charming little woman, 
gentle and affectionate, but very delicate. His mother and 
grandmother gave the young couple a warm welcome. 
They made a wedding feast, in true patriarchal fashion, 
and invited all their friends and relations in Greville and 
Cherbourg to do honour to the nuptials of the eldest son 
of the house. And as they sat at the festive board, the 
old grandmother made this little speech : " Remember, my 
Francois, that you are a Christian before you are a painter, 
and never devote so fine a calling to the service of the 
enemies of religion. Never sacrifice on the altar of Baal. 
Remember the great saints who painted beautiful pictures, 
and follow their example!" 

The subjects of some of Millet's pictures were probably 
not altogether to the taste of the good old woman, who 
would have liked to see him paint nothing but pictures 
from sacred story and the lives of the saints. But her 
grandson hastened to calm her fears and assured her that, 
come what might, he would never sacrifice his conscience 
to his art. 

" Even if they cover the canvas with gold and ask me 
to paint a * St. Francis possessed by the Devil,' " he added, 
with a smile, " I will promise you never to consent ! " 

His grandmother laughed in her turn, and his fond 



68 



J. F. MILLET 



mother whispered, in her Norman dialect: " Ft don notre 
gas, Francois, comme y prechit foV/" — "Listen to our boy 
Francois, how well he talks ! ' ' 

Early in 1842 the young couple returned to Paris. Before 
his departure Millet left his own portrait and that of his 
bride, and several other pictures which he had lately 
painted, in the hands of his wife's family. Unfortunately, 
these new relations were not congenial to him. From the 
first, they seem to have treated him badly, and he never 
spoke of his Cherbourg connections without evident pain. 
A pastel of his young wife which belongs to this period is 
now in England, and is one of the earliest works that 
he executed in this method. She is represented seated 
at a table reading. A black shawl is thrown over her 
shoulders, and a handkerchief tied round her head, as, 
resting her cheek upon one hand, she looks down on the 
open book. Her whole appearance is graceful and refined, 
but frail and delicate. The poor young woman was, 
it is plain, little fitted to share the hardships of a strug- 
gling artist's life. She had never been strong, and from 
the time she moved to Paris, her health and spirits drooped, 
and she faded slowly away. 

The next two years were full of suffering for Millet, who 
had the bitter grief of seeing his wife's failing health, and 
of being unable to procure the comforts which she needed. 
They lived in a little lodging in the Rue Princesse, No. 5, 
and had no friends excepting the faithful Marolle, who paid 
them constant visits and did his best to help them. Fortune 
seemed to have turned her back upon Millet. The pictures 
which he sent to the Salon of 1842 were rejected, and the 
following year he did not try to exhibit. In his dire need 
he accepted whatever orders he could get, and painted 
signs and portraits for the smallest sums. Even then he 
had great difficulty to get paid, and often met with harsh 
and cruel treatment. Life, he said himself to Sensier, was 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



6 9 



one daily fight for bread. As his poor young wife grew 
worse his position became more painful. In that dark little 
room of the Rue Princesse he went through days and 
nights of untold anguish. 

In after years he often experienced hard times, but he 
never again suffered the misery and desolation which he 
had known in those days. The years 1843 and 1844, he 
always said, were the hardest in his life, and he never 
spoke of them without a kind of horror, as if the recollec- 
tion of this terrible time was too bitter to be endured. 
Yet he was never heard to utter a complaint or to speak 
angrily of the men who had treated him the worst. 
"There are bad people in the world," he would say, when 
he recalled these incidents, " but there are good ones too, 
and one good man consoles you for many who are bad. 
Here and there I found a helping hand and I have no right 
to complain." But all the while he worked at his art with 
untiring zeal. He made studies, and painted pictures, and 
when he found himself short of material, destroyed the 
work which he had done, and began another subject on the 
same canvas. And he paid frequent visits to the Louvre, 
and consoled himself with Fra Angelico's celestial visions 
and Michelangelo's sublime forms. Correggio was another 
master who attracted him at this period of his career. 
He studied his flesh-tints and modelling with great interest, 
and learnt new secrets of light and colour which were to 
prove of lasting value. 

The first of these studies appeared in the pastels which 
he finished in the winter of 1 843-1 844, and exhibited in 
the following Salon. One was a Normandy peasant-girl 
carrying a pitcher, which Marolle insisted on calling The 
Milkmaid. The other was a group of children playing at 
horseback on the floor, called The Riding Lesson. The 
animation and luminous colouring of this little picture 
attracted considerable attention in the Salon. The critic 



70 



J. F. MILLET 



Thore' spoke of it with high praise, and the painter Diaz 
was filled with admiration for the work of this unknown 
artist, and declared it to be a work of undoubted genius. 
"At last we have a new master," he exclaimed, "who 
has a talent and a knowledge which I for one covet, and 
can give life and expression to his creations. That man 
is a true painter ! " 

Both Diaz and his friend, Eugene Tourneux, were bent 
on finding out this new genius. They made repeated in- 
quiries after Millet, and at length, one morning in 
May, they knocked at the door of the humble lodging 
in the Rue Princesse and asked for the artist. The story 
they heard was a sad one : " There were two persons 
living here in a small lodging. The wife is dead ; and the 
husband is gone away, no one knows whither." That 
brilliant pastel, which delighted both critics and artists by 
its life and gaiety, had been painted during the sad hours 
that Millet had spent in watching at the bedside of his 
dying wife. The poor young woman had breathed her 
last on the 21st of April, and her husband was gone to 
hide his tears in his old home. 

There he remained for the next eighteen months, finding 
consolation in the presence of familiar faces and in the 
sight of his native fields. By degrees courage and hope 
revived, and he began to paint with fresh ardour. News of 
the success of his pastels in the Salon reached Cherbourg, 
and the despised artist received a cordial welcome from 
his old friends. During the following year he painted a 
variety of pictures and pastels in the bright and graceful 
style which he had lately adopted. His portrait of his 
friend's child, Mademoiselle Antoinette Feuardent — a 
curly-haired little girl with a pink silk scarf on her head, 
laughing at the sight of her own face in the glass — was 
greatly admired. A Head of Christ wearing the Crown of 
Thorns, in chalks heightened with white, was also among 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



71 



the works which he drew at Gr6ville, and was, no doubt, 
more to his grandmother's taste. Fresh orders reached 
him, and the prefect of Cherbourg offered Millet the post of 
Professor of Drawing at the town college. The proposal 
was a flattering one, and Millet's attachment to his native 
soil tempted him to accept it. But he valued his inde- 
pendence still more, and in spite of all that he had suffered 
in Paris, he felt that he must go back there and once more 
try his fate in the great world of art. So he declined 
the post, and fearing that his decision would distress his 
mother and grandmother, did not even tell his family of 
the offer which had been made him. 

Millet's first marriage had proved unfortunate, and had 
left him a childless widower before he was thirty. The 
iron had entered into his soul ; but he was not the man to 
live alone. His serious air and romantic face captivated 
the affections of a good and gentle peasant maiden — ori- 
ginally a native of Lorient, on the coast of Brittany — 
Catherine Lemaire by name. She listened pityingly to 
the tale of his sorrows, and shared his dreams of future 
work : he took pleasure in her company, and she looked 
up to him as one far above her. Pity and admiration soon 
deepened into love. Before long Millet learnt her secret, 
and the village maid became his wife. She was barely 
eighteen and had never left her village home ; but she 
had a heart of gold and a courage beyond her years, and 
she gladly devoted her whole life to the man whom she 
loved. During the next thirty years this brave and loyal 
wife was Millet's faithful companion and helpmeet. She 
was intelligent enough to appreciate his genius and to 
share his deepest thoughts, and her devotion was his best 
comfort in the trials of his future life. Few but his most 
intimate friends knew how much he depended upon her 
sympathy and support, and the world is perhaps hardly 
yet aware how much it owes to Catherine Millet, 



72 



J. F. MILLET 



Her husband often made her sit to him as a model for 
his peasant- women, and has left us more than one excellent 
likeness of her. Perhaps the most familiar is the portrait 
of the head and bust engraved in Sensier's life, and at that 
time in the collection of M. George Petit. This drawing 
belongs to the early years of her married life, and, in its 
perfect simplicity and truthfulness, helps us to realize the 
charm of her goodness and the strength of her character. 
In the drawing of a Young Woman Sewing, which he made 
at Barbizon in 1853, we see another portrait of his wife, 
taken when she was about five-and-twenty. Here Madame 
Millet is represented sitting in her chair, wearing the white 
cap of the Normandy peasant, engaged in mending her 
husband's coat, which lies across her knees. Her head is 
bent over her work with an intent expression, and the 
light falls on her white linen collar and on the thread 
which she is in the act of drawing through her fingers. 
Nothing could be more true to life or more delicately 
rendered than this little study, which has at once so rare 
a charm and so pathetic an interest. It bears the date 
1853, together with an inscription from the pen of his 
friend Campredon — to whom it belonged at one time — 
stating this to be a portrait of the painter's wife. 

The marriage took place at Gre"ville, late in the summer 
of 1845. In November, the newly-wedded pair set out 
for Paris; but on the way they made a stay of several 
weeks at Havre. Millet's reputation had already preceded 
him here, and a Gre>ille friend who was residing in the 
town introduced him to many of the chief residents. Sea- 
captains and sailors, harbour officials and consuls, all sat 
to him in turn for their portraits; and a picture of a 
Spanish lady whom he painted, robed in gay draperies of 
blue and pink silk, and reclining on a couch, created quite 
a sensation in the town. Before he left Havre, a public 
exhibition of his works was held in the Town Hall. Here, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



73 



besides these portraits, several of the pictures and pastels 
of pastoral and mythological subjects which he had lately 
painted at Gr6ville and Cherbourg, were exhibited, and 
pleased the popular fancy by their graceful forms and 
harmonious colouring. 

Chief among these were two pictures, Daphnis and Chloe 
sporting on the banks of a running stream in a wood- 
land landscape, and the Offering to Pan, a young girl plac- 
ing a crown of flowers on a marble term, in the heart of 
the woods, which is now in the Museum of Montpellier, 
together with a number of smaller genre pictures, such 
as, A Child Bird-nesting, The Flute Lesson, A Girl 
Brushing away the Flies from the Face of her Sleeping 
Lover, A Workwoman Asleep, The Bacchantes, A Sacrifice 
to Priapus, The Temptation of St. Anthony. Many of these 
subjects were sketchily treated, and bore evident signs of 
haste; but the grace of the grouping, the transparency of 
the warm atmosphere, were undeniably attractive. The 
influence of Correggio was strongly marked, while the 
drawing and modelling of the figures revealed a thorough 
mastery of form. 

Millet's visit to Havre is described by Sensier as a 
bright and joyous moment in his life, which was soon to 
be eclipsed in gloom. Many years were to go by before 
he enjoyed another interval of comparative freedom from 
care, or tasted the sweets of popular applause even in this 
passing form. The next four years of his life were spent 
in Paris, and were one long tale of poverty and neglect. 
The growing cares of a young family made the struggle 
harder, and compelled him to sacrifice his natural inclina- 
tions and paint for bread. At home his mother and grand- 
mother waited anxiously for his letters, which came but 
rarely now, and treasured up the brief notices which were 
occasionally to be seen of his pictures in the newspapers. 
They urged him to come and see them, and he too longed 



74 



J. F. MILLET 



passionately for one sight of the old home. " I felt," he 
said to Sensier, " that I was nailed to a rock, and con- 
demned to hard labour for the rest of my natural life. 
And yet I could have forgotten all, if only I might, now and 
then, have been able to see my native village again ! " 

But with a wife and increasing family, the journey was 
impossible, and seven long years passed away before 
Millet set foot again on Norman soil. When at length he 
came back to his native place, it was to find the hearth 
empty, and the faces that he had loved best there missing. 
He might well say, as he gazed " with breaking heart " 
on that "poor roof" where he was born and where his 
parents had died, " In Art you have to give everything — 
body and soul." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



75 



IV 



MILLET and his wife reached Paris in the last days 
of December, 1845. They took a lodging, consist- 
ing of three small rooms, at No. 42, Rue Rochechouart, 
and Millet made himself a modest atelier, furnished with 
three chairs and an easel. Here he set to work at once on 
a Temptation of St. Jerome, which he destined for the next 
Salon. He had 900 francs in his pocket — the fruit of his 
success at Havre — and was in good spirits, full of hope 
and courage. His young wife made his home peaceful 
and happy. His old friends, Marolle, and Charles Jacque, 
the engraver, who lived opposite, gave him a cordial 
welcome, and before long other visitors arrived. Eugene 
Tourneux, true to his word, found Millet out soon after 
his return, and expressed his admiration for his work in 
glowing terms. Diaz was equally encouraging, and, 
finding that Millet was in want of employment, exerted 
himself strenuously on his behalf. This warm-hearted 
Spaniard, who, more fortunate than his brother-artists, 
knew, as he once said, " how to keep success tied to the 
leg of his easel with a pink ribbon," tried hard to give 
Millet a share of his prosperity. He went from shop to 
shop seeking orders for his friend, and told dealers and 
amateurs alike that they must be blind to shut their 
eyes to the man's talent, and that they would assuredly 
live to repent of their folly. 

Meanwhile Francois was not forgotten at Greville, 
and while he was at work on his St. Jerome he received 
the following characteristic letter from his grandmother: 



7 6 



J. F. MILLET 



" My dear Child, — 

" You tell us that you are going to work for the Exhibition. 
You have not told us if you received any benefit from the quantity 
of pictures which you exhibited at Havre. We cannot understand 
why you refused the post at the College of Cherbourg. Do you 
really see greater advantages in life at Paris than here in the midst 
of your friends and relations ? You tell us that you are about to 
paint a picture of St. Jerome groaning over the dangers to which he 
found himself exposed in his youth. Ah, my dear child ! follow his 
example. Make the same reflections, to your eternal profit ! Re- 
member the words of that man of your profession who said, ' I 
paint for eternity.' Whatever may happen, never allow yourself to 
do bad works ; above all, never lose sight of the presence of God. 
With St. Jerome, think continually that you hear the sound of the 
trumpet which will call us to judgment. . . 

"Your mother is very ailing, and spends much of her time in 
bed. As for me, I become worse and worse, and find myself 
almost unable to walk at all. . . . 

" We wish you a good and happy new year, and the most abundant 
blessings from heaven. Do not delay to give us your news. We 
are very anxious to know what your present position may be. We 
trust it is a prosperous one, and we all embrace you with the ten- 
derest affection. 

" Your Grandmother, 

"Greville, ioth January, 1846. "Louise Jumelin." 



This picture of St. Jerome, in which Millet's grand- 
mother took so deep an interest, was unfortunately re- 
jected by the jury of the Salon. Couture, Millet's old 
teacher in Delaroche's atelier, admired it extremely, and 
both execution and conception are said to have been 
very striking. But in the following year Millet find- 
ing himself short of canvas painted a new subject — 
(Edipus Taken from the Tree — on the same picture, and 
nothing was left of his St. Jerome. There was little of 
Greek feeling in Millet's rendering of this classical 
subject. The infant CEdipus is seen released from the 
tree, to which he is bound, by a shepherd, while a young 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



77 



woman standing below receives him in her arms, and a 
black dog is seen barking at her side. The picture was 
merely, as the artist himself said, an excuse for practis- 
ing the flesh-painting and modelling in which he excelled. 
But it is at least a noble study of form and colour, and 
bears witness to the profound impression which Michel- 
angelo's work had made upon the painter. It attracted 
considerable attention when it was exhibited in the Salon 
of 1847, and was noticed by two leading critics, Th6ophile 
Gautier and Thore, as a striking and original work by 
a painter who could not fail to make himself a name 
ere long. And in the old home at GrCville, the black- 
smith, who had long ago admired the boy's drawing of 
the three men on donkeys, read a flattering notice of the 
picture in a newspaper that was sent him from Paris, 
and ran to take the good news to Millet's house. His 
mother and grandmother wept tears of joy at this mention 
of their absent son, and there was great rejoicing among 
his family and friends. 

At this period of his career Millet was chiefly famous 
for his undraped nymphs and fauns: his brother-artists 
called him le maltre du nu. Women bathing or resting 
under the trees, children at play in flowery meadows, 
groups of youths and maidens dancing on the grass, a 
young girl with a lamb in her arms — these were the 
subjects of the drawings or pastels which he made for 
Deforge or Durand-Ruel, and the other dealers who 
bought his works. One little picture of a nude girl asleep 
on a grassy bank, while a faun watches her slumbers 
through the boughs, so delighted Diaz that he bought it 
on the spot. But the finest example of his talent in this 
direction is that famous little picture of four children 
dragging a half-draped nymph through a forest glade, 
to which he gave the narae^ of V Amour Vainqueur. The 
action of the laughing children and the form of the 



78 



J. F. MILLET 



golden-haired nymph are rendered with masterly art, 
while the beauty of the colouring, the fine effect of the 
blue drapery against the warm flesh-tints, and the rich 
glow on the woodland background, recall the art of Titian 
and Giorgione. The original version of this truly classical 
picture has been exhibited of late years both at Edinburgh 
and in London, and is the property of Mr. J. S. Forbes. 
A replica may be seen in Mr. Quilter's collection, and a 
study for the upper part of the nymph's figure is repro- 
duced by Sensier in his book, and was at the time in the 
writer's possession. These little idylls, painted in what 
critics have called the artist's flowery manner, are 
curiously unlike the work that we have learnt to associate 
with Millet's name ; but their power and charm are in- 
disputable. Their subjects may not appeal to us, the 
sentiment may strike us as forced and artificial ; but 
there can be no doubt as to the mastery of form and of 
chiaroscuro which they reveal. A new stage, we feel, has 
been reached in the history of the Norman peasant-lad 
who came up to Paris to seek his fortune and learn his 
trade ten years before. The days of his apprenticeship 
are over. He stands before us a finished artist, complete 
in every sense of the word, who has mastered the secrets 
of his craft, and is able to tell the world all that he 
has to say. 

It was at this moment of Millet's career, early in 
1847, that Alfred Sensier, his future biographer, first 
made his acquaintance. That year Sensier saw a life- 
size crayon portrait of the painter which he himself had 
drawn and given to his friend Charlier. The sight of 
this noble head, " as melancholy as that of Albert Diirer, 
with its deep, earnest gaze, full of intellect and good- 
ness," made a profound impression upon the young lawyer 
whose recent appointment to a post in the MusCe du 
Louvre brought him into contact with many rising 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



79 



painters. He sought eagerly for an opportunity of be- 
coming personally acquainted with this man whose face 
haunted him day and night. At length, one day, the 
landscape-painter, Constant Troyon, who knew Millet 
through their mutual friend Diaz, took him to see the 
artist in his lodging of the Rue Rochechouart. 



*' Millet," writes Sensier, " at that time wore a curious garb. A 
brown overcoat, in colour like a stone wall, a thick beard and long 
locks, covered with a woollen cape like that of a coachman, gave 
him a singular appearance. The first time I saw him he reminded 
me of the painters of the Middle Ages. His reception was cordial, 
but almost silent. He took me for a philosopher, a philanthropist, 
or a politician — neither of whom he cared much to see. But I 
talked of art to him, and seeing his Dap/im's and Chlo'e hanging on 
the wall, I told him what I thought of it. He looked hard at me, 
but still with a kind of shyness, and only said a few words in a reply. 
Then I caught sight of a sketch of a sower. ' That would be a fine 
thing,' I remarked, ' if you had a country model.' ' Then do you 
not belong to Paris?' he asked. 'Yes; but I was brought up in the 
country.' ' Ah ! that is a different story,' he said in his Norman 
patois; 'we must have a little talk.' Troyon left us alone, and 
Millet, looking at me some moments in silence, said : ' You will 
not care for my pictures.' ' You are wrong there,' I replied warmly ; 
' it is because I like them that I have come to see you.' 

"From that moment Millet conversed freely with me, and his 
remarks on art were as manly as they were generous and large- 
hearted. 

" ' Every subject is good,' he said. ' All we have to do is to 
render it with force and clearness. In art we should have one 
leading thought, and see that we express it in eloquent language, 
that we keep it alive in ourselves, and impart it to others as clearly 
as we stamp a medal. Art is not a pleasure-trip ; it is a battle, a 
mill that grinds. I am no philosopher. I do not pretend to do 
away with pain, or to find a formula which will make me a Stoic, 
and indifferent to evil. Suffering is, perhaps, the one thing that 
gives an artist power to express himself clearly.' 

" He spoke in this manner for some time and then stopped, 
as if afraid of his own words. But we parted, feeling that we 



8o 



J. F. MILLET 



understood each other, and had laid the foundations of a lasting 
friendship." 

From that day the young official of the Mus6e du 
Louvre saw Millet frequently, and became one of the 
most frequent visitors to the humble dwelling of the 
Rue Rochechouart. He liked to watch the painter at 
his work, wholly absorbed in the task before him, 
executing with rare dexterity those graceful little com- 
positions of mothers and children, of sleeping nymphs 
or sportive cherubs, which he endowed with all the 
magic of his art. 

" It was always a joy," writes Sensier, " to see Millet paint. He 
seemed to express his ideas and fancies in paint as naturally as the 
bird sings, or the flower opens in the sunshine. I never looked 
at his work as a critic, but merely enjoyed the pure and life-giving 
air which I breathed in his companionship. When life's cares op- 
pressed me, I went to see Millet paint, and came away refreshed and 
consoled." 

Another link which drew the two men together was 
their mutual taste for country life. Sensier cherished 
happy recollections of the woods and meadows where his 
early days had been spent, and which all the years that 
he had lived in Paris could not make him forget. As he 
watched Millet work these old memories revived. The two 
friends talked of harvest and hay-making, of sowing and 
reaping, until, moved by the sense of mutual sympathy 
which knit them together, he would declare that in some 
former stage of existence they must surely have already 
been twin souls, sharing the same thoughts and living the 
same life. 

"Why not?" Millet would reply in his half-serious, 
half-jesting manner. " Who knows if we were not shep- 
herds, keeping flocks together in the age of Saturn ! " 

Millet's friend and neighbour, the clever engraver and 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



8l 



painter, Charles Jacque, shared his friendship for Sensier, 
and took part in their discussions. Often, after dark, the 
three would meet together at Millet's lodging, and with 
Diaz or Campredon, and a few other intimate friends, 
they would sit up talking over a pot of beer till the small 
hours. Then ancient and modern art, the early Florentines 
in the Louvre, and the Romanticists of the present day, to- 
gether with a hundred other subjects relating to painting, 
to poetry, or to philosophy, would be brought up and dis- 
cussed in turn. Millet, as a rule, seldom took any leading 
part in these interminable conversations. He listened 
silently to each speaker, and contented himself with an 
occasional remark ; but when he did intervene, it was 
with crushing force. His sentences were always brief and 
to the point, his arguments well thought out and lucidly 
expressed. Once thoroughly roused, he entered the fray 
with Herculean vigour, and dashed his opponents to pieces. 
On these rare occasions he would speak almost fiercely of 
the state of society. Politicians) romance-writers, dogma- 
tists in art and letters were alike hateful to him. The 
whole atmosphere of Paris oppressed him, and the chatter 
of the great city, its literature and ambitions, its fashions 
and morals, remained for him to the end an incompre- 
hensible world. The poorer class of the labouring popu- 
lation were the only people who really interested him, 
and the sight of their squalor and misery gave him a 
sickening sensation. He painted the stone-masons at work 
in the quarries of Charenton, and the navvies employed 
on the fortifications of Montmartre ; he drew a mother 
and child begging in the street,, and a working-man spend- 
ing his Monday's rest in a drunken bout. Then in disgust 
at these repulsive subjects of city life, he turned back with 
fresh delight to his memories of GrCville, and set to work 
on a large-sized figure of a peasant winnowing grain on 
the floor of a Norman barn. 



82 



J. F. MILLET 



Meanwhile his own prospects did not improve, and it 
was often hard to keep the wolf from the door. His eldest 
child, a girl named Marie, was born on the 27th of July, 
1846. Two others, a second girl and a boy, followed before 
the end of 1848. Millet himself was often to be seen rock- 
ing his babies in his arms, and singing them to sleep to 
the tune of old Norman songs. Then, when they were 
safely asleep in their cradle, he would take up his brush 
and go back to work. His wife was the tenderest and best 
of mothers, and never complained of want and hardship 
herself as long as she had food for the children. Whatever 
happened, she met her husband's friends with a cheerful 
face, and did her best to hide the poverty of her small 
household. But do what she would, there were days when 
it became impossible to conceal the truth, and it was plain 
to Millet's friends that the whole family were reduced to 
the verge of starvation. 

The troubles of the year 1848 brought things to a crisis. 
Early in the spring Millet fell ill of rheumatic fever, which 
brought him to the point of death. For several weeks he 
lost consciousness, and was a prey to the wildest delirium. 
The doctors gave up all hope of recovery, and only awaited 
the moment of his death. But to their surprise Millet's 
vigorous constitution triumphed, and he recovered. The 
generous help of his friends supplied him with funds 
during his convalescence, for his long illness had left him 
too weak to work. One day, however, he sat up, shook 
himself, as he says, " like a wet dog," and painted a 
pastel of a Little Girl sitting on a bank, with bare feet, 
and sorrowful eyes lifted heavenwards. A friend bought 
this pathetic little picture for thirty francs, and paid him 
the same sum for a similar pastel of a Little Traveller. 
But the Revolution had effectually stopped all demand for 
work of this kind, and, in common with other artists, 
Millet found himself reduced to sore straits. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



83 



The Salon of 1848 was a memorable one. The Revolu- 
tion in February was followed by a revolt of the artists, 
who rose in a body against the tyranny of the Institute, 
and a free exhibition was held in the Louvre. Rousseau 
and Dupre" were on the hanging committee ; Delacroix 
sent as many as ten canvases. When the doors of the 
new Salon opened on the 15th of March, two of Millet's 
works were seen on the line. One, his fine figure of The 
Winnower, occupied a prominent place in the Salon Carre" ; 
and the other, representing The Captivity of the Jews in 
Babylon, hung in the Great Gallery. The last - named 
picture was a classical composition in the style of Poussin ; 
but in this scene of the Jewish women refusing to play 
their harps in their captivity the painter has given utter- 
ance to his own sorrow, and to the yearning of his heart 
after his own land : "By the waters of Babylon we sat 
down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion. As 
for our harps, we hanged them up upon the trees that are 
therein. For they that led us away captive required of us 
then a song and melody in our heaviness : Sing us one of 
the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in 
a strange land? " 

Unfortunately this picture, which Sensier describes as 
singularly impressive, was destroyed by the painter him- 
self, who, many years afterwards, painted his Woman 
Shearing Sheep on the same canvas. 

Both works attracted considerable notice at the time. 
The Winnower, that fine figure of the peasant, in his blue 
shirt and red handkerchief, winnowing grain in the barn, 
surrounded by a cloud of golden dust, commanded general 
admiration. The noble action of the figure and the rich 
tones of the colouring were widely recognised in artistic 
circles. Before the close of the Salon it was bought by 
M. Ledru Rollin. Since then it has often changed hands, 
and was at one time in the S6cr6tan collection, while a 



8 4 



J. F. MILLET 



smaller and later version belonged to the Laurent-Richard 
collection, and was afterwards bought by M. Bellino. But 
while all Paris was talking of his pictures, the painter 
and his wife were actually without food or firewood in 
their lonely garret. They had not uttered a word of com- 
plaint, they did not beg now ; but a neighbour discovered 
their pitiable plight, and sent word to some of their friends. 
One kind-hearted artist hastened to the office of M. Ledru 
Rollin, who, as Minister of the Interior, was at the head 
of the Administration of Fine Arts, and obtained a grant 
of ioo francs, which he took at once to Millet's lodging. 
It was a cold evening towards the end of March. The 
painter was sitting on a box in his studio, shivering with 
cold ; there was no fire in the room and no bread in the 
house. He said, "Good-day," but did not move. When 
the money was put into his hand, he replied : 

" Thank you ! It has come in time. We have not eaten 
anything for two days. But the great thing is that the 
children should not suffer ; they at least have had food 
until now." 

Then he called his wife, and handing her part of the 
money, he said: "Take this, and I will go out and buy 
some wood ; I am very cold." 

He said no more, and never again alluded to the incident. 
But the cold and hunger of those days told upon his en- 
feebled frame, and were no doubt one cause of the terrible 
headaches from which he suffered in after years. 

A few days afterwards M. Ledru Rollin himself came to 
see Millet, and told him that he had bought The Winnower 
for 500 francs. At the same time he promised him an 
order for another picture from the State. This was a joy- 
ful day for Millet and his wife, and on the strength of this 
good fortune they moved into a new lodging at No. 8, Rue 
du Delta. A prize was offered by the State for a figure of the 
" Republic," and Millet painted a classical figure crowned 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



85 



with ears of corn, and seated by a hive of bees, holding in 
one hand a palette and brushes and in the other cakes of 
honey. Liberty, as he conceived her, was to encourage 
agriculture and the fine arts, and flourish on their produce. 
But these ideas were too peaceable for the times, and he 
was told that he had committed one unpardonable fault — 
his goddess did not even wear the bonnet rouge ! Conse- 
quently, this Republic was returned on his hands, and did 
not even receive honourable mention from the judges who 
awarded the prizes to the successful competitors. 

In June the insurrection broke out, and Millet, like 
every one else, was compelled to shoulder a musket and 
take part in protecting the National Assembly. He was 
present at the taking of the barricades in the Quartier 
Rochechouart, and saw the leader of the insurgents shot. 
These scenes of riot and bloodshed sickened his very 
soul. He turned away horror-stricken from the sight, 
and sought to recover calm by long wanderings at night- 
fall on the plains of Montmartre or Saint Ouen. Then 
in the morning he sat down to paint the impressions of 
his evening walk and produced a series of charming 
little pastels — Swimmers at Sunset, Horses Drinking at 
the Fountain of Montmartre, Cattle Led to the Slaughter- 
house, Sleeping Labourers, etc. More than one artist 
who saw these rapidly-executed impressions was struck 
by the genius of the artist, and prophesied that a great 
future was in store for him. Guichard, especially, a 
pupil of Ingres, who had attained some distinction, used 
to tell his old master that Millet was the finest draughts- 
man and had the most poetic feeling among all the 
artists of the new school. 

But in Paris, during that fatal year of revolutions, 
there was no sale for works of art, and the end of the 
summer found Millet once more penniless and hopeless. 
When the insurrection of June broke out he was in the act 



86 



J. F. MILLET 



of painting a sign for a midwife. He finished the panel 
to the sound of firing guns, and the thirty francs which 
the honest woman paid him on the spot stood him in 
good stead during those troublous days. 

" Those thirty francs saved me," he told Sensier ; " for 
they kept us alive a whole fortnight, until the insurrec- 
tion was over. How often I blessed that unexpected 
help!" 

When the streets were quiet again, he painted a Mer- 
cury carrying off the flocks of Argus and a gaily-coloured 
little pastel of Delilah cutting off Samson's locks. Un- 
fortunately, like most of Millet's works of this period, 
these pictures, to which he attached no value, were after- 
wards destroyed by the artist himself, who painted others 
on the same canvas. Two pastels of Liberty — the one 
armed with a sword and dragging her victims along the 
ground, the other seated on her throne, surrounded by 
the dead corpses of kings — were rescued from destruc- 
tion by Sensier, who bought them because no dealer 
would take them as a gift. 

In his destitution he accepted an order from a music-shop, 
and actually executed two engravings for the title-page 
of songs. One of these was a portrait of Chateaubriand, 
which has disappeared, the other was destined for a musical 
romance called, " Ou done est-il?" composed by the pub- 
lisher, Fr6d6ric Lebel. In Millet's vignette, a lady dressed 
in black is seen clasping two children in her arms and 
leaning against a balustrade, as she looks out anxiously 
into the night and repeats the words, "Where is he?" 
The group was graceful, its meaning apparent to the 
meanest capacity. But when Millet presented himself at 
the door of the music-shop with his plate, and claimed 
the thirty francs which had been agreed upon as the 
price, the publisher declared his engraving to be useless, 
and insolently refused payment. Millet's remonstrances 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



8 7 



were of no avail ; the music-seller turned him out of the 
house, and slammed the door so violently that his right 
hand was badly crushed, and for some weeks afterwards 
he was unable to use his pencil. The luckless plate was 
destroyed at the time, and the only impression now in 
existence was discovered in Paris, eight years ago, by 
an American collector, Mr. Keppel, who bought it for a 
high price, and preserves it as a precious memorial of 
the great master's struggling days. 



88 



J. F. MILLET 



V 



IN the midst of the disasters which overtook Millet 
during 1848, he met with one stroke of good fortune. 
The Minister of the Interior, M. Ledru Rollin, urged 
by Jeanron, the new Director of the Louvre, and con- 
stant champion of struggling artists, had as we have seen 
promised Millet an order from the State. He proved as 
good as his word, and when the troubles of the summer 
were over, Millet received a commission from the Repub- 
lic for a picture, to be painted at his leisure. The choice 
of the subject was left to the painter, and 700 out of 
the promised sum of 1,800 francs were paid in advance. 
The terms were liberal, and Millet, in his joy at his 
good fortune, set to work on a large canvas of a size 
proportionate with the price, he said. His artist friends 
reproached him with his folly for beginning work on so 
large a scale, and told him that a small picture would 
meet the requirements of the case equally well. But 
Millet persisted in his resolution, and began a large sub- 
ject of Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert — an allusion to 
his own fate, his biographer remarks, in the Sahara of the 
great city. The figures were larger than life : Hagar was 
seen lying on the ground, her bare limbs bronzed by long 
exposure to the sun, clasping her fainting child in her 
arms, and gazing at his face in a passion of love and 
grief. Millet had lavished all his skill on the modelling 
of Hagar's form, and intended the whole to be a striking 
study of the nude. Suddenly, when the picture was al- 
most finished, he changed his mind and stopped short. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



8 9 



For one evening, as he stood before the lighted window 
of Deforge's shop, he happened to see two young men 
looking at one of his own pastels — a drawing of women 
bathing, which he had lately sold. One youth asked the 
other who had painted this picture. His companion re- 
plied : " A man named Millet who never paints anything 
but naked women." 

The words were a shock to Millet. His friends had 
often admired his nude figures, and praised his skill in 
flesh-painting. But never until that moment had he realized 
that his reputation as an artist depended on this kind of 
work. His whole soul rose up in protest against the in- 
justice of the accusation. He thought of his old aspira- 
tions, of his grandmother at home, of the fields where he 
had ploughed and sowed with his dead father, and vowed 
that, come what might, he would paint no more naked 
figures. The reproof he felt had not been undeserved. 
But whether for profit or for renown, he would do no 
more of the devil's work, and it should never again be 
said of him that he was a master of the nude. He 
went home that evening and said to his wife : 

" If you consent, I will paint no more of those pic- 
tures. Life will be harder than ever, and you will 
suffer ; but I shall be free and able to do what I have 
long dreamt of." 

The brave woman replied : "I am ready. Do as you 
will." 

It was an answer worthy of Millet's grandmother her- 
self. 

So the great decision was made. From that moment 
he turned his back resolutely on the past and entered 
on a new course. 

His Hagar and Ishmael was abandoned, and then and 
there, on the same canvas, he began to paint his picture 
of Haymakers Resting in the Shadow of a Hay-stack, on 



go 



J. F. MILLET 



an open Plain. It was a memory of Gr6ville and of the 
hay-stacks on his father's farm. But the task was not 
easy, and many months passed before the new picture 
was finished. He could not find the right models in 
Paris, and sought in vain along the banks of the Seine 
and at Saint-Ouen for a country-woman who would 
satisfy his ideas. 

"It is of no use," he said ; " I can only find women 
of the suburbs. What I want is a real country peasant." 

The revulsion of feeling which he had lately under- 
gone had revived his old longings for the country 
with increased force. Paris seemed to him more intoler- 
able than ever, and his desire to escape from an atmo- 
sphere which weighed every day more heavily upon his 
soul became a settled resolve. But his artist-friends 
were unanimous in begging him to remain where he 
was; Diaz, above all, urged him to consider seriously 
the inevitable results of a step which, in the present 
state of affairs, seemed to him little short of madness. 

" What I " he cried ; "do you mean to tell me that 
you prefer to live with brutes, and to sleep on weeds 
and thistles — which will certainly be your lot, if you 
choose to bury yourself among peasants in the country — 
when, by remaining in Paris and persevering in your 
immortal flesh-painting, you are sure to be clothed in 
silks and satins ! " 

But Millet's mind was made up, and no argument 
could shake his resolution. 

" I know that," he replied quietly. " But all the same 
I am more familiar with country life than with town 
life, and when I set my foot on the grass, I shall be 
free." And he went back to work at his Haymakers. 

The troubled state of Paris, and the feeling of un- 
certainty that prevailed in all classes of society, made 
that winter a hard one. At Christmas Madame Millet 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



91 



gave birth to a third child, a son, who received his 
father's name, Jean Francois. The burden of domestic 
cares seemed to grow heavier every year. In his 
distress Millet was forced to part with his drawings for 
clothes and other necessaries: a picture went for a 
bed, six drawings were exchanged for a pair of boots. 
Some of those precious crayon-sketches which are bought 
for hundreds of pounds to-day were sold for prices vary- 
ing from one to five francs ; and four superb portraits of 
the painter Diaz, of Victor Dupr£, of the sculptor Vechte 
and the artist Barye were bought by a dealer for the 
sum of twenty francs. Three out of the four — the 
portraits of Diaz, Dupr6, and Barye — together with 
another of the critic Desbrosses and a magnificent head 
of Theodore Rousseau in the same style, are now the 
property of Mr. J. S. Forbes, and were recently exhibited 
at the Grafton Gallery. All five are life-size, half- 
length portraits in crayons, and in shape and execution 
exactly match the well-known portrait of Millet himself, 
which, given by him to his friend Charlier at the time 
it was painted in 1847, afterwards became the property 
of Sensier. They give us a high idea of Millet's powers 
as a portrait-painter, and make us regret that so little 
remains of his work in this direction. The personality 
of each of his sitters is admirably rendered : the thought- 
ful expression of Desbrosses' head and down-dropped 
eyes contrasts finely with Dupre"'s keen and alert air, 
and with the fiery gaze of the Spanish master, whose 
piercing eyes flash from under the thick tuft of black hair 
falling over his forehead. Barye's delicate features bear 
the stamp of his refined intellect and artistic feeling, 
while the majestic portrait of Rousseau leaning his 
brow on his hand recalls the masterpieces of Italian 
art, and might have supplied Lionardo with a model for 
his St. Peter. 



mmmmmmm ^ 



HMMH 



92 



J. F. MILLET 



We realize the straits to which Millet must have 
been reduced when such line work as this was allowed 
to go for so paltry a sum. One day, about the same 
time, his friend Jacque collected a number of stray 
notes and sketches which were about to be used to light 
the fire, and ill as he himself could spare the money, 
insisted on paying Millet what he considered to be their 
value. 

In spite of the daily pressure of grinding poverty that 
weighed so heavily on Millet's spirit he worked on 
steadily, and by dint of unremitting toil succeeded in 
finishing a figure of a peasant woman sitting down, in 
time for the Salon of 1849. A few weeks afterwards he 
completed his picture of Les Faneurs — haymakers at 
rest — and having at length ended this important work, 
addressed the following letter to the Minister of State : 

"Paris, April 30, 1849. l 
" Sir — 

" I have completed the picture which you were kind enough 
to order, and have executed it with all possible care and conscien- 
tiousness. I ought to send it to the Exhibition, where it could 
be properly seen and judged. I pray you to be good enough to 
pay me the balance of 1,100 francs which is still due on this com- 
mission. My great need of money obliges me to ask you to let me 
have it as soon as possible. Accept, sir, the assurance of my pro- 
found respect. 

"J. F. Millet. 
"8, Rue du Delta." 

A month afterwards Millet received the promised 
sum. During the interval, the cholera had broken out 
in Paris ; it raged violently in the quarter where Millet 
lived, and hundreds of children fell victims to its 



1 N.B. — This letter was first published in Scribner's Magazine (May, 
1890) by Mr. T. H. Bartlett, to whom, as stated in the Preface, we owe 
many interesting details of Millet's private life at this period. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



93 



ravages. Both Millet and his friend Jacque, who had 
a large family, were in mortal fear lest their children 
should be attacked by this terrible disease. Jacque him- 
self fell ill and had hardly recovered when Millet came 
to him with joyful news : he had that morning received 
the eleven hundred francs that were due to him from the 
Government, and was longing to share his good fortune 
with his friend. 

"Here is a thousand francs," he cried; "I will lend 
you half. Let us go together into the country, I do 
not care where ; if you can tell me of some place, all 
the better ; anyhow, we will leave Paris." 

Jacque accepted this proposal gladly, and told Millet 
that he knew of a little place on the edge of the Forest 
of Fontainebleau, which he thought would exactly suit 
their requirements. He could not remember the name 
of the village, but knew that it ended in son, and felt 
sure that they would be able to discover the rest of the 
word when they reached Fontainebleau. 

And so, one fine summer's day, just before the Revolu- 
tion of the 13th of June, 1849, the two families set off 
in the diligence for Fontainebleau. They were in high 
spirits and talked and laughed so gaily on the road that 
they forgot to ask for Barbizon, although they actually 
passed within sight of its roofs as they drove through 
the forest. When they reached Fontainebleau, they 
took rooms at the Blue Dial, an old inn still standing 
in the principal street, and rested there for a few days 
enjoying the country air and the beauty of the forest, 
then in all the freshness of early summer. But Madame 
Millet's frugal mind soon took fright. " Mon ami," she 
said to her husband, " this hotel is beyond our means. 
Had you not better find out some cottage where we can 
take shelter?" And so the two artists set out together 
in search of the village with the name that ended in 



94 



J. F. MILLET 



son. After a long walk through the forest they found 
a wood-cutter who showed them the path which led to 
Barbizon, and they entered the village by the cowherd's 
gate. Millet was charmed with the beauty and primi- 
tive air of the place, and the next day he brought his 
family by diligence to the corner where the path to 
Barbizon branches off from the high-road to Chailly ; 
here they left the coach and walked through the forest 
towards the village. Millet led the way bearing his 
two little girls of three and two years old on his 
shoulders ; his wife followed with the baby- boy in her 
arms and accompanied by the maid-servant carrying a 
big basket of provisions. A storm of rain came on 
just as they started, and Madame Millet threw the 
skirt of her gown over her head to protect her babe. 
As they entered the village Millet heard an old woman 
call out : " Look ! there goes a company of strolling 
actors." They reached Pere Ganne's inn at dinner- 
time, and found a party of artists with their families 
sitting down to table. Diaz, who was present on this 
occasion, introduced the strangers, and invited them, 
after the custom of Barbizon, to smoke the pipe of 
peace. A discussion followed as to whether Millet 
was to belong to the Classicists or Colourists, the two 
groups into which the Barbizon artists were divided. 
" If you are in doubt about that," said Millet, " put me 
in a place by myself," upon which one of the company 
remarked that the new-comer looked powerful enough 
to found a school which should bury them all. He little 
dreamt how true his words were to prove. 

After spending a fortnight at the inn, Millet and 
Jacque both decided to settle at Barbizon for the present. 
Millet took a bedroom in a one-storied cottage, at the 
western end of the village, belonging to a man known 
as Petit Jean, who bought and sold rabbit-skins. This 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



95 



singular individual, whose eccentric habits afforded 
Millet great amusement, was seldom at home himself, 
and, besides giving his lodgers the use of one of his 
rooms, allowed them to cook their food at the only 
fireplace in the house. Here they remained for several 
weeks, and Millet rented a little upper room across the 
street, which he used as his atelier until he found a house 
of his own. His relief at feeling that he had left Paris 
behind him was great, and in the first flush of joy in 
the sense of newly-recovered freedom, he sat down and 
wrote the following letter to Sensier : 

" Barbizon, 28th June, 1849. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I shall be greatly obliged if after reading and sealing the 
enclosed letter, you will take it to Rue du Delta, No. 8. You will 
find my landlord, the father-in-law of the painter Salmon, at home, 
as a rule, as late as nine or half-past nine in the morning, or again 
by six o'clock of an evening. 

" Jacque and I have settled to stay here for some time, and have 
accordingly each of us taken rooms. The prices are excessively low 
compared to those in Paris ; and as it is easy to get to town if 
necessary, and the country is superbly beautiful, we hope to work 
more quietly here, and perhaps do better things. In fact, we intend 
to spend some time here. 

"You will therefore oblige me by giving the enclosed letter to 
the landlord before the 1st of next month, and make him under- 
stand (what is only too true) that I shall have great difficulty in 
paying him my arrears, if I am ever able to manage it. I wish 
you good-bye, with many hearty embraces. Jacque sends you warm 
remembrances, and will answer your letter to-morrow. 

"J. F. Millet." 

This little holiday at Barbizon was to last twenty-five 
years, and before the summer was over, Millet had taken 
the cottage which was to be his home until the end of his 
life. 



PART III 



BARBIZON 

1849— 1875 

" C'est le cote humain qui me touche le plus en art, et si je pouvais 
faire ce que je voudrais, ou tout au moins le tenter, je ne ferais rien qui 
ne fut le resultat d'une impression recue par l'aspect de la nature, soit 
en paysages, soit en figures. ' Tu mangeras ton pain a la sueur de ton 
front.' Est-ce la ce travail gai, folatre, auquel certaines gens vou- 
draient nous faire croire ? C'est cependant Ik que se trouve pour moi la 
vraie humanite, la grande poesie." 

— J. F. Millet. 



H 



J. F. MILLET I HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



99 



I 



WHEN Millet finally left Paris to pitch his tent at 
Barbizon the hardest part of his life was over. 
Suffering and trouble enough were still in store for him, 
but he had taken the great step, and broken for ever with 
the slavery of conventional art. Henceforth he was free 
to choose his own subjects and paint in his own way. He 
had found his true vocation, and fought his way through 
stress and storm into the light. The clouds of doubt and 
perplexity which darkened his steps in the past had all 
vanished, and the path lay clear before him. Whatever 
difficulties he might have to encounter, however bitterly 
hostile the outside world might prove, he was sure of 
himself. And from that moment he never wavered in 
his choice, never once looked back, or returned even in 
thought to the style of art which he had deliberately put 
away from him. 

But those dreary twelve years of struggle and effort 
which he had spent in Paris had not been all in vain. 
The artist had served his apprenticeship and learnt his 
lesson well. He had mastered the technical side of 
painting, and had laid a firm hold on the great and 
abiding principles which are the foundation of all true 
art. And now he was to apply these principles to those 
types of human life which had been present to his 
mind from his early youth. The lessons which he had 
learnt at his grandmother's knee, when the little birds 
sang in the old elm trees, and the scenes which had 



IOO 



J. F. MILLET 



sunk into his mind as he followed the plough at his 
father's side, were henceforth to be his theme and the 
inspiration of his art. 

Barbizon, the village which the names of Millet and 
Rousseau have rendered immortal, is a hamlet of the 
Commune of Chailly, in the department of Seine-et-Marne, 
thirty-four miles from Paris, and six from the town and 
palace of Fontainebleau. It consisted in those days of 
a winding street of low stone houses and barns, running 
between the western part of the Forest of Fontainebleau 
and the plain of La Biere. The nearest shops, the 
church, and posting office were at Chailly, a sleepy 
little village on the high-road between Paris and 
Fontainebleau, about a mile and a half distant. Here 
the people of Barbizon went to be married, and took 
their children to be christened ; here they were buried 
in the shadow of the old church where so many genera- 
tions of their forefathers had worshipped. The first artists 
who discovered Barbizon are said to have been Aligny 
and Le Dieu, who, coming down to visit a friend in 1824, 
were fascinated by the beauty of the spot, and spread the 
fame of its charms among their comrades in Paris. Corot 
and Rousseau, Diaz and Barye and Francois, and many 
others, came there during the next few years, and took 
up their quarters at the White Horse at Chailly, which 
afforded better accommodation than could be found in 
Barbizon, until in 1830 a tailor named Francois Ganne, 
who had married a German wife, took a barn at the wes- 
tern end of the street of Barbizon, and fitted it up as an 
inn. Pere Ganne 's hotel, as it was called, soon became the 
favourite resort of French painters and art students ; and 
the landlord boasts that he had entertained more artists 
under his roof than any other innkeeper in the world. 

During the next forty years, men of all national- 
ities and of every degree of reputation, from the fore^- 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



IOI 



most painters of the day down to the youngest student 
from London or Edinburgh, from New York or Boston, 
flocked to Barbizon each summer, attracted by the pic- 
turesque beauty of the forest and the free Bohemian life 
of the place. Some of them spent their days sketching 
in the forest or on the plain, others gave themselves up 
to fun and idleness. They smoked their pipes over their 
beer, and danced and acted, and covered the walls of Pere 
Ganne's hostelry with comic verses and drawings. Pere 
Ganne and his wife made them all welcome; the neigh- 
bouring barns and outhouses were fitted up as temporary 
lodgings, and often on summer days as many as fifty 
guests sat down to table. But when Millet came to 
Barbizon in 1849, the place was still comparatively little 
known, and was chiefly visited by the men who are 
known to-day as the masters of the School of Barbizon. 
Rousseau, with whom Millet was about to form the closest 
friendship of his life, was already living there, and Diaz, 
Corot, and Barye were among the most frequent of the 
summer visitors. In the eyes of Millet, weary as he was 
of Paris streets and hoardings, of riots and barricades, 
this quiet spot seemed another Arcady. The first sight 
of the forest made an indescribable impression upon his 
mind : the majesty of its giant trees, the solemn stillness 
of their shades, filled him with awe and wonder ; the 
wild parts of the forest, its picturesque gorges and rugged 
crags, revived the old dreams of his childhood. He rushed 
to and fro in a frenzy of delight, climbed the granite 
boulders of the rocky wilderness, and lay on the heather 
gazing up at the blue sky and crying : " My God ! how 
good it is to be here ! " and he told Sensier, who came 
down to see him and looked on in amazement at these 
transports of joy, that he knew no bliss so exquisite as 
that of lying at full length on the heather, watching the 
clouds sail by. 



102 



J. F. MILLET 



When his first rapture of delight was over, he began to 
draw, not only the rich and varied forest scenery around, 
but the human beings and animal life which he found 
there — the wood-cutters and charcoal-burners; the cow- 
herds leading their cattle to pasture ; the poachers lying 
in wait for game ; the old women tying up faggots and 
bearing their load home upon their backs ; the stone- 
breakers at work in the quarries ; and the rabbits starting 
out of their burrows. Yet more to his taste were the 
subjects which he found on the great plain that lies to 
the north-west of Barbizon, and stretches as far as the 
eye can reach. On this wide, Campagna-like expanse of 
country peasants were to be seen at work all the year 
round ; here, within a day's walk of Paris, some rem- 
nants of the beauty and poetry of pastoral life still 
lingered. Shepherds might still be seen abiding in the 
fields by night, keeping watch over their flocks ; the sower 
still went forth to sow, and the gleaners followed in the 
steps of the reapers, as Ruth of old in the field of Boaz. 
Here, as Millet saw the labourers digging and ploughing 
the soil, and the women weeding and pulling up potatoes, 
as he watched the shepherd calling his sheep by name, 
and the young girl spinning or knitting while she led her 
flock back to the fold, he felt himself once more at home. 
He put on sabots, an old straw hat, brought out a red 
sailor's shirt which he used to wear at Gruchy, and 
became a peasant again. Then he looked about him for 
a little home of his own, where he and his family could 
take up their abode and lead a peaceful and sheltered life, 
free from the endless worry of lodging-houses and land- 
lords. 

He soon found a cottage that suited him at the eastern 
end of the street, near the entrance of the forest, and next 
door to the house which his friend Jacque had taken. It 
was a low, one-storied stone building, with a tiled roof, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



IO3 



seventeen feet high and sixty-one feet long by sixteen 
wide, with its gabled end fronting the street. Like all 
the Barbizon houses, it stood in a courtyard enclosed by 
a high wall, with a well and shed in one corner, where 
the cows came to be milked, or the sheep to be shorn. 
Beyond was a garden and small orchard, stretching to- 
wards the forest, and a gate leading out into the meadows 
at the back. The house itself consisted of two small 
rooms, with plaster walls and raftered ceiling, each eight 
feet high and about twelve feet square. There was an 
outhouse which was used as a kitchen, and an old barn, 
the floor of which was several steps below the level of 
the street. This damp, cold room, without a fireplace, 
and lighted only by one little window in the corner, be- 
came Millet's atelier, where, during the next five years, 
all his great pictures were painted. The house itself was 
afterwards improved, and a new atelier was built by 
his landlord, a peasant named Brezar, and popularly 
known as the Wolf. But for the present these three 
rooms were the whole accommodation in the cottage, 
which Millet rented, just as he found it, for the modest 
sum of 160 francs, or rather more than six pounds a year. 
Such as it was, the painter and his wife lived there in 
perfect contentment ; the freedom and tranquillity of 
his new life exactly suited him. The early mornings 
were spent in digging his garden and planting vegetables 
for home use, and it was with genuine delight that he 
once more handled spade and hoe. Often in his walks 
on the plain he would take the spade out of some 
labourer's hand and, much to the man's surprise, show 
him how well he could dig. After breakfast he went 
into his studio and worked till sunset, when he would, 
if possible, break off in time to take a run in the forest, 
or, at least, watch the sun go down from the fields at 
the back of his house. It was a healthy and peaceful 



io4 



J. F. MILLET 



existence, favourable to actual work and to the gradual 
development of the ideas that were teeming in his brain. 
The first subject on which he set to work was a study 
of Ruth in the harvest-field of Boaz, which he sketched 
rapidly in charcoal on the walls of his atelier. The field 
and the labourers and gleaners were alike studies from 
Barbizon life, and the picture was afterwards exhibited 
in 1852 under the title of Les Moissonnenrs. But he did not 
proceed further with this subject that autumn, and spent 
his time in recording the thousand impressions which 
he received daily from his new surroundings, and in 
completing half-finished pictures for Paris dealers. He 
was still heavily in debt to his landlord of the Rue du 
Delta, and knew that it would be long before he could 
feel himself a free man. 

The following letter bears no date, but seems to have 
been addressed to Sensier during the first winter at Bar- 
bizon : 



" Barbizon, Saturday. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" When does the sale of pictures, which you mentioned, take 
place ? Let me know in good time, and I will bring the pictures 
which are ready with me, and will finish the others in Paris. In 
any case, I must probably come to Paris in another fortnight. I 
think I shall have done well if I can finish five pictures. I have 
also three in progress, and I have done a good deal to the 
Washenvomen for M. de Saint Pierre. I work like a slave, and 
the days seem to be gone in five minutes ! My wish to make a 
winter landscape has passed into the stage of a fixed resolve. I 
have also a plan for a picture of sheep, and all manner of other 
ideas in my head. 

" If you could but see how beautiful the forest is ! I run there 
whenever I can, at the end of the day when my work is done, and 
each time I come back crushed. The calm and grandeur are 
tremendous, so much so, that at times I find myself really 
frightened. I do not know what the trees are saying to each 
other. It is something that we cannot understand, because we do 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



I05 



not speak their language, that is all ; but I am quite sure of 
this — they do not make puns ! 

"To-morrow, Sunday, is the Fete of Barbizon. All the ovens, 
stoves, and chimneys, all the pots and saucepans, are so busy that 
you might believe it was the eve of Gamache's wedding. There 
is not an old gridiron in the place which has not been brought 
into use ; all the turkeys, geese, chicken, and ducks that you saw 
in such good condition, are roasting or boiling on the fire, and 
pies as big as cart-wheels are being cooked ! Barbizon, in fact, 
is turned into one big kitchen, and the fumes must fill the air for 
miles round ! 

" Tell me about the sale, and if you advise me to send any- 
thing. Be so kind as to give your gilder the enclosed order, and 
try and see that his frames are not too frightful. The gilding I 
care less about, but it is the shape that matters. However, he 
must do his best. And please send me these colours as soon as 
possible : three burnt Sienna, two raw Sienna, three Naples yellow, 
one Venetian red, two yellow ochre, two burnt amber, and one 
bottle of oil. That is all. Remember me to Diaz. A hearty 
embrace to yourself. 

"J. F. Millet." 

In his next letter he informed Sensier of his firm re- 
solve to keep henceforth to peasant-subjects, and pro- 
claims himself le Grand Rustique of the years to come. 

" My dear Sensier, — ■ 

" Yesterday, Friday, I received the colours, the oil, canvas, 
etc., which you sent me, and the accompanying sketch of the 
picture. These are the titles of the three pictures destined for the 
sale in question : 

"(1) A Woman Crushing Flax ; 

"(2) A Peasant and his Wife going to Work in the Fields ; 

" (3) Gatherers of Wood in the Forest. 

" I do not know if the word Ramasseurs can appear in print. 
If not, you can call the picture, Peasants Gathering Wood, 
or anything else you choose. The picture consists of a man 
binding sticks in a faggot, and of two women, one cutting oif a 
branch, the other carrying a load of wood. That is all. 

"As you will see by the titles of the pictures, there are neither 



io6 



J. F. MILLET 



nude women nor mythological subjects among them. I mean to 
devote myself to other subjects ; not that I hold that sort of thing 
to be forbidden, but that I do not wish to feel myself compelled 
to paint them. 

"But, to tell the truth, peasant-subjects suit my nature best, 
for I must confess, at the risk of your taking me to be a Socialist, 
that the human side is what touches me most in art, and that if I 
could only do what I like, or at least attempt to do it, I would 
paint nothing that was not the result of an impression directly 
received from Nature, whether in landscape or in figures. The 
joyous side never shows itself to me ; I know not if it exists, but 
I have never seen it. The gayest thing I know is the calm, the 
silence, which are so delicious, both in the forest and in the cul- 
tivated fields, whether the soil is good for culture or not. You 
will confess that it always gives you a very dreamy sensation, and 
that the dream is a sad one, although often very delicious. 

" You are sitting under a tree, enjoying all the comfort and quiet 
which it is possible to find in this life, when suddenly you see a 
poor creature loaded with a heavy faggot coming up the narrow 
path opposite. The unexpected and always striking way in which 
this figure appears before your eyes reminds you instantly of the 
sad fate of humanity — weariness. The impression is similar to 
that which La Fontaine expresses in his fable of the Wood-cutter : 

" ' Quel plaisir a-t-il eu depuis qu'il est au monde ? 
En est-il un plus pauvre en la machine ronde ? ' 

" In cultivated land sometimes — as in places where the ground 
is barren — you see figures digging and hoeing. From time to time, 
one raises himself and straightens his back, as they call it, wiping 
his forehead with the back of his hand — 'Thou shalt eat bread 
in the sweat of thy brow.' 

u Is this the gay and playful kind of work that some people 
would have us believe? Nevertheless, for me it is true humanity 
and great poetry. 

" I must stop, or I shall end by tiring you. You must forgive 
me. I am all alone, and have no one with whom I can share 
my impressions. I have let myself go, without thinking what I 
was saying. I will not start this subject again. 

" Ah, while I think of it, send me from time to time some of 
your fine letters, with the Minister's seal in red wax, and all 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



I07 



possible decorations ! If you knew the respect with which the 
postman hands me these letters, hat in hand, (a very unusual 
thing here !) saying with the most deferential air, ' This is from the 
Minister ' ! It gives me a distinct position, it raises my credit, I 
can assure you ; for, in their eyes, a letter with the Minister's 
seal comes, of course, from the Minister himself. Such an envelope 
is a great possession ! . . . Tell me if there is any chance of 
an order. And do you know how Jacque's affairs are getting 
on ? Good-bye. 

"J. F. Millet. 

"Are Rousseau's pictures producing any great effect? Are they 
much of a success ? " 



This interesting letter, in which Millet opens his heart 
to his friend, bears no date ; but from the allusion which 
it contains to Rousseau's pictures, which were exhibited 
in Paris before their sale on the 2nd of March, 1850, 
it must have been written in the February of that year. 
The jesting manner in which he ends his letter, half- 
ashamed, as it were, of the confidences which he has 
been making, is highly characteristic. But Sensier was 
right in attaching especial importance to these words, 
in which the grave and silent man revealed his thoughts. 
They contain his whole philosophy of art, and were the 
formal manifesto in which he laid down the lines of his 
future work. 



io8 



J. F. MILLET 



II 



185O-1852 



THIS then was Millet's discovery, this the new gospe 
which he had to proclaim in the ears of the moderr 
world. Before his time the peasant had never been hek 
a fit subject for art in France. Kings and queens, lordi 
and ladies might play at pastorals if they chose ; It 
Grand Monarque might set the fashion by appearing ir 
the character of Apollo — le plus beau des bergers 
leading his flocks along the slopes of Parnassus; Marie 
Antoinette might put on peasant-maid's skirts, and milt 
her cows under the trees of her elegant dairy ; but the 
bergeries of Trianon and the paysans enrubane's of Watteau's 
Arcadia were as far removed from reality as possible 
The polite world remained convinced of the truth ol 
Madame de Stael's saying, and agreed with her thai 
V agricidture sent le fumier. A group of peasants drink- 
ing or quarrelling, a picturesque beggar, or even a paii 
of humble lovers at a cottage door might be tolerated : 
but no one was so audacious as to attempt the prosaic 
theme of a labourer at his work. 

This Millet was the first to do. Born himself of a long 
race of yeomen, and familiar with every detail of rustic 
toil, he was admirably fitted both by nature and education 
for the task. He saw the dignity of labour, and knew by 
bitter experience the secrets of the poor. And the pathetic 
side of human life had for him an especial attraction. 
"The gay side of life," he had said in his letter to Sensier, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



109 



" never shows itself to me ; I know not if it exists, but I 
have never seen it." Like the great Roman poet whom 
he loved from his boyhood, he was profoundly conscious 
of the pathos of human life and the unsatisfied yearnings 
of the human heart. The sight of the struggling masses 
of toiling humanity filled him with sympathy ; the hard- 
ship and monotony of the labourer's daily lot, the patient 
endurance that comes of long habit, touched his inmost 
soul. In his eyes this was true humanity and great 
poetry. 

And more than this, he looked on the peasant with the 
eye not only of the poet but of the artist. He realized 
from the first the close relation that exists between the 
familiar sights of every-day life and the noblest works of 
art ; saw that there might be action as heroic, and beauty 
as true, in the attitude and gesture of a peasant sowing or 
a woman gleaning as in the immortal forms of Greek 
sculpture. That natural instinct for beauty of line, that 
keen appreciation of form which revealed itself in the 
boy's charcoal-drawing of the old man bent double with 
age, led him to note every gesture and movement in the 
people about him, just as it made him find such keen 
delight in the drawings of Michelangelo. When, in his 
struggling Paris days, he proposed to make drawings of 
reapers at work, " in fine attitudes," his friend shrugged 
his shoulders and shook his head at this strange sugges- 
tion. But in the end this was exactly what Millet did, 
and the world to-day no longer laughs at his Sower, or 
Gleaners. He knew, as few masters have ever known, 
how to put a whole world of thought into an individual 
action, how to express the lives and character of bygone 
generations in a single gesture ; and with true poetic 
insight he makes us realize the deeper meaning that lies 
hidden below the eternal destiny of the human race, the 
age-long struggle of man with Nature, which will endure 



no 



J. F. MILLET 



while seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, follow 
each other upon the face of the earth. 

The first page in Millet's great epic of labour, the first 
celebrated picture which he painted at Barbizon, was the 
Sower. Long ago, in the days of his youth at Greville, 
he had sketched the figure of a peasant scattering grain in 
the furrows as he walks along. That little pen-and-ink 
drawing, in its few strokes, contains the germ of the future 
work. The pose and movement of the figure, the measured 
step, and outstretched arm are there already; the rusty felt 
hat sunk over the young labourer's brows, the very shape 
and cut of his clothes, the sack of grain at his side, even 
the oxen ploughing in the background, are all indicated. 

From this slight sketch the artist, after his wont, slowly 
and painfully evolved his noble work. He has left us 
several drawings which enable us, step by step, to follow 
the development of his idea through its successive stages. 
We see how the figure gradually gained in breadth and 
vigour, and by degrees acquired that solemn majesty and 
rhythm, until the homely theme became a grand and 
sublime poem. All through the winter and spring-time 
at Barbizon, surrounded as he was by country sights and 
sounds recalling the old life, he brooded silently over that 
first impression of his early days. He thought of the 
serious meaning of the sower's task, of the great issues 
that hang upon the seed-time, and of the new life that 
germinates in the grain that he casts abroad to supply the 
bread of the coming years. He remembered the old cus- 
tom, still practised in his boyhood, of uttering a few words 
of prayer, and sowing the first seed in the ground in the 
form of a cross. And as he meditated over these old 
memories, the great picture grew into being, and he 
painted that wonderful form of the Sower, striding with 
majestic tread across the newly-ploughed field, flinging 
the precious seed broadcast. Night is falling, the shadows 




' 






H 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



I I I 



are lengthening over the wind-swept fields, and scarce a 
gleam in the western sky lights up the winter landscape ; 
but still he goes on his way, careless alike of the coming 
darkness or of the flocks of hungry crows that follow in 
his track. In that solitary figure, with his measured 
tread and superb action, the whole spirit of the peasant's 
calling is summed up with a power and concentration of 
thought worthy of Michelangelo. 

The first version of The Sower, Sensier tells us, was 
executed at fiery speed, in the white heat of the painter's 
glowing imagination. But when he had almost finished 
the picture, he found to his dismay that the canvas was 
too short, and would not allow sufficient room for the 
ground on which the sower's front leg rests. Accordingly 
he traced the lines of his figure on a larger canvas, and 
produced an exact replica of the original, which was 
finished in time to appear at the Salon held in the Palais 
Royal at the close of 1850. The impression which it made 
was twofold : on the one hand, the older and more con- 
ventional critics declared The Sower to be a revolutionary 
work, plainly conceived on Socialist lines by a painter 
who wished to protest against the cruel tyranny of the 
upper classes and the misery of the poor. Some ingenious 
persons went so far as to see in this a severe and threaten- 
ing figure" a Communist, who is flinging handfuls of shot 
at the sky in open defiance of God and man ! On the other 
hand, it attracted the admiration of all the younger school 
of artists, and was greatly praised by at least one critic, 
Theophile Gautier, who recognised its rare merit, and 
described it in eloquent language as the finest picture of 
the year. 

This Sower, exhibited in the Salon of 1850, soon found 
its way to America, and has for many years been the 
chief ornament of the Vanderbilt collection. The first 
and smaller picture is also in the New World and is 



I 12 



J. F. MILLET 



now the property of Mr. Quincy Shaw, of Boston. In 
later years Millet made several drawings and pastels of 
the same subject, which had already acquired a wide 
popularity. But this time his model was a Barbizon 
peasant. Instead of the white oxen, two horses were 
harnessed to the plough, the plain of La Biere took the 
place of the Norman moorland, and the ruined tower 
near Chailly was introduced, with a clump of trees in 
the background. 

Together with The Sower, Millet sent another picture, 
The Hay-binders, to the Salon at the Palais Royal. This 
was a group of labourers binding newly-cut hay in trusses 
at the foot of a haystack, while a young girl at their side 
collects the last rakings of the meadow. Here again the 
vigorous action of the men, and the blazing heat of the 
June day, were given with remarkable truth ; but the 
colour was heavy in tone, and the picture passed com- 
paratively unnoticed by the side of The Sower. 

Gautier's criticism of these two works pleased Millet, 
and he frankly owns the justice of a remark which that 
writer had made on the meanness of his colouring in Les 
Botteleurs — the hay-binders. 

"Gautier's article," he writes on the 23rd of March, 1851, "is 
very good. I begin to feel a little more contented. His remarks 
about my thick colours are also very just. The critics who see and 
judge my pictures are not forced to know that in painting them I 
am not guided by a definite intention, although I do my utmost 
to try and attain the aim which I have in sight, independently of 
methods. People are not even obliged to know why it is that I 
work in this way, with all its faults." 



Millet was probably alluding to the journalists who tried 
to discover political theories and Socialist tendencies in 
his peasant - pictures — a form of criticism which he 
naturally resented as unjust and absurd. The same 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



113 



letter to Sensier contains a touching expression of Millet's 
grief at the sudden death of a mutual friend, Longuet : 

" I am still stupefied and astounded at the news of the death of 
poor Longuet. I am very much pained, not only because of the 
suddenness of his death — only very lately he came to see me at 
Laveille's, and appeared in as good health as he had ever been — 
but because I have always held him to be a very worthy man. 
What a frail machine this body of ours is ! I believe he was 
married, but I did not know his wife. Did he leave any children ? 
I heard from Jacque a few days ago. The commission, he says, 
has fallen through ; but they will get up a subscription of 2,000 
francs, which is something, and even a very agreeable gift, if only 
half the sum which he expected to have." 

The next day Millet opened his letter again, in great 
distress at the sudden illness of his little daughter, Marie, 
a child of five. He had a profound distrust of the country- 
doctor and of his drugs, and anxiously begs Sensier to 
send him a bottle of medicine from Paris. 

" Monday Morning. 
" Yesterday evening, Sunday, when I was writing to you, and 
had got as far as you see above, I was forced to interrupt my letter 
to attend to my eldest girl, who had been suddenly attacked by a 
violent fever. She played during the day as usual, but asked to be 
put to bed while she was eating her dinner, and complained of 
being cold. I passed the night with her, applying, according to 
Raspail's method, bandages soaked in sedatives ; but it did no 
good, and the fever developed to a formidable degree. I am 
suffering the greatest anxiety. Generally speaking, I have very 
little confidence in physicians, and much less in the one at Chailly 
than in any other. How and what is to be done? I have just 
bathed her again. . . . Poor little girl ! so gay all day and in 
a moment stricken by this sudden fever. Whether I send or not 
for the horrid doctor at Chailly, oblige me by buying and sending 
by the coach a bottle of camphorated ammonia as soon as you get 
this note. Perhaps you will not read my letter before to-morrow 
evening ; but if by any chance you happen to be at home during 
the day, buy the bottle, and send it by the coach that leaves at 

1 



114 



J. F. MILLET 



four o'clock. In any case do this on Wednesday, and I will go to 

Chailly to see if it arrives. I hope I may have no need of it when 

it reaches me, but it may be required at any moment. Good-bye. 

The fever does not diminish. 

"J. F. Millet." 

This letter reveals all the man's tenderness of heart, 
and gives a faithful picture of his life at Barbizon, 
divided as it was between the practice of his art and 
family cares. Fortunately, the child recovered and the 
anxious father was able to return to his work. 

It was his habit at this period of his life to take up 
his pictures to Paris, and finish them either in the atelier 
of his friend Diaz or at the shop of Laveille, the dealer 
who bought most of his early drawings and whose name 
is constantly mentioned in his letters. Here he met 
other artists and became acquainted with collectors who 
gave him new commissions. 

Of the three smaller works painted in 1850, which 
Millet sent to the sale mentioned in his former letter, the 
most important was Allant Travailler — a peasant and his 
wife going out to work. This well-known picture was 
one of the painter's first Barbizon impressions, and proved 
so popular that he afterwards reproduced the same theme 
in a variety of drawings and pastels. In this young 
couple starting for the fields together, there is a spirit 
of frank and cheerful enjoyment, seldom found in Millet's 
works. The young labourer, in his straw hat and blouse, 
steps blithely along, with his hand in his pocket and 
his fork upon his shoulder, his wife walks at his side, 
in her short petticoats and sabots, carrying a stone 
pitcher in her hand and wearing her basket on her head, 
to protect her from the heat of the sun. Their bright 
faces and brisk steps are in tune with the pleasant fresh- 
ness of the early morning and the happy spring-time of 
life, when toil is easy and action full of delight. Every 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



II 



detail in the landscape — the tufts of grass at their feet, 
and the plain behind them — is reproduced with loving 
care, and in the distance are the roofs and houses of 
Barbizon. 

This charming little work was promptly bought by 
a Paris tradesman, named Collet, who was so pleased 
with his purchase that he ordered a figure of the Virgin 
as a signboard for his draper's shop in the Rue Notre 
Dame de Lorette. Accordingly Millet painted a blue- 
robed Virgin, clasping the Child Christ in her arms, and 
resting her feet on the crescent of the moon. He exe- 
cuted the work in the courtyard of a neighbour in open 
daylight, and fixed his canvas on the top of a ladder on 
a level with the roof, that he might better judge of the 
effect which it produced at this height. He writes to 
Sensier on the 18th of December, 185 1 : "If you see 
Collet, tell him that he shall soon have his signboard, 
only I must have a few days of dull weather before I 
can finish it." During many years this blue-robed 
Virgin hung outside M. Collet's shop at the corner of 
the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette and Saint Lazare, a 
familiar object to passers - by. Constant exposure to 
weather made repeated restorations necessary, and when, 
after often changing hands, it came into the possession 
of its present owner, M. Morel, several coatings of paint 
were removed, and the surface was carefully cleaned. 
In spite of its damaged condition, this picture was ex- 
hibited in London some years ago, and attracted con- 
siderable attention. The Virgin is of distinctly peasant 
type, but has a nobleness of character and simple dignity 
not unworthy of Millet. Her eyes are turned heaven- 
wards with a calm and trustful gaze, and the tiny babe 
on her arm, in its weakness and helplessness, recalls 
the child of Holbein's Darmstadt Madonna. 

Another picture which belonged to these first years at 



n6 



J. F. MILLET 



Barbizon, was the small canvas of Les Couseuses, or 
young women sewing at home. " They are not pro- 
fessional needlewomen," Millet was always careful to 
insist, " but women engaged in mending the household 
linen in their own homes." The artist had an example 
of domestic industry constantly before his eyes in his 
own wife, who sat to him about this time as a model 
of his drawing of Young Women Sewing, which was 
bought by his friend Campredon. The picture of Les 
Couseuses had one good result — it brought the painter an 
order from the State. 

M. Romieu was at that time Director of the Fine 
Arts, but although a cultivated man, he took little in- 
terest in art, and owned frankly that he knew nothing 
about painting. When Sensier addressed a request to 
him through his secretary on Millet's behalf, he was 
told that inquiries must first be made as to the artist's 
political views and moral character. There were in- 
fluential persons, it appears, who had an idea that the 
painter of The Sower must be a demagogue and agitator. 
Accordingly, inquiries on the subject were addressed to 
the Prefect of the department of Seine-et-Marne, who 
replied that Millet was a very quiet and well-conducted 
citizen, who was rarely seen and seldom heard of at 
Barbizon, and that he spent his whole life in painting 
at home or in taking walks by himself in the neighbour- 
hood, watching the sky and the trees. These accounts 
of his character were so far reassuring. Unfortunately, 
the artists whom M. Romieu consulted as to Millet's 
capabilities, described him as a pretentious and eccentric 
personage, who went his own way and rejected the 
great traditions of the past. This was sufficient to ex- 
cite suspicion in the Director's mind, and, to Sensier's 
disappointment, his appeal met with no response. As 
a last resource, he took Millet's picture of Les Couseuses, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



117 



and, carefully concealing the painter's signature, he 
asked his friend the secretary to hang it in M. Romieu's 
rooms, and see what impression it produced upon the 
Minister and his friends. This simple and graceful 
little canvas certainly bore no trace of the dangerous 
opinions that Millet was supposed to hold. Before long 
its quiet charm attracted the notice of more than one 
visitor. One day it caught the eye of Paul Delaroche, 
who stood still before it during several minutes, and 
asked the Director to tell him the name of the painter. 
"It must be the work of some new man," he remarked; 
" I have seen nothing like it before." 

In reply, he was told that the little picture had' been 
painted by an artist named Francois Millet, who was said 
to be a mere peasant. Delaroche recognised the name 
at once. " Millet ! " he exclaimed, " why, he was my 
own pupil. I am not at all surprised; he was full 
of imagination, and had a vigorous method of his own." 

After that, Sensier had no difficulty in attaining his 
object. The order from the State was signed at once. 
Millet received 600 francs in advance, and was desired 
to paint any subject which he liked to choose, and to 
deliver the work at his own convenience. The com- 
mission reached him in 1852, at a time when he was in 
great want of money and hard pressed by his creditors. 
He was still hampered by his old debts, and found, to 
his surprise, that at Barbizon he could not live upon 
credit, as he had done in Paris. The small Chailly 
tradesmen naturally asked for ready money, and were 
little disposed to trust a struggling artist with a large 
and yearly - increasing family. Before long, Millet 
found himself surrounded by a whole tribe of angry 
shopkeepers who clamoured for payment of their weekly 
bills, and threatened to stop supplies. The baker re- 
fused to let him have any more bread, the grocer sent 



n8 



J. F. MILLET 



him a lawyer's letter, and one day a tailor put an exe- 
cution into his house, and sent bailiffs to sell his furni- 
ture, refusing to allow him a single day's grace. In 
these straits, Millet wrote urgent letters to Sensier, 
entreating him to sell his pictures 

" Try, my dear Sensier," he wrote, " to make money with my 
pictures ; sell them for whatever price you can get, and send me 
ioo francs, or even 50 or 30, for the time is rapidly coming when I 
must have the money or starve." 

These appeals were especially frequent at the end of 
the month, or quarter, when impatient creditors refused 
to be put off with promises any longer. And Millet, 
it must be owned, was a thoroughly bad man of business, 
incapable of managing his own affairs, and an easy 
prey to the neighbours or false friends who tried to 
impose upon his credulity. 

His health was another cause of trouble. He suffered 
from constant headaches, partly caused by the un- 
healthy atmosphere of the damp, close barn in which 
he worked, and was often unable to paint for w r eeks 
together. At such times his courage sank, and his 
anxieties assumed alarming proportions which prompted 
the despairing utterances that we read in his letters to 
Sensier. But a single ray of hope — the sale of a picture 
or a fresh order — quickly produced a revulsion of feeling. 
His headaches were cured, the sun shone once more in 
the heavens overhead, and he went back to work with 
new ardour and hope. His love for his art and his faith 
in himself never failed. If he could but struggle on 
for a few years, he firmly believed that a better day 
would come, his pictures would begin to sell, and the 
w T orld would acknowledge the truth of the principles 
which he maintained. For the present he must wait 
and work on in patience. " In Art," he often said, " you 
have to give your skin." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



119 



III 



185 I- 1854 



WHILE Millet was painting immortal pictures and 
wrangling with his creditors at Barbizon, sad 
news came from his old Norman home. His mother 
and grandmother had their troubles, and found it hard 
to get a living for their large family out of the few acres 
of their Gruchy farm. Wheat was dear, and poverty 
widespread; the roads swarmed with beggars, and the 
poor women could no longer feed the needy travellers 
who knocked at their doors. They heard with dismay 
of the disturbances in Paris, and lay awake thinking of 
the dangers to which Francois was exposed. At last 
they learnt with relief that he was at Barbizon, out 
of reach of riots and barricades. Then in 1850 came 
the news of the success of his Sower, and the good old 
grandmother thanked God for her boy. But her own 
strength was failing fast; she was partially paralysed, 
and could hardly move, but still managed to write pious 
exhortations to her beloved Francois. Her mind remained 
clear and vigorous to the last, and she met death with 
the serenity of some aged saint. She died early in 185 1, 
talking of Francois, the Benjamin of her heart, with her 
last breath, and sending him her love and blessing. 

The news of his grandmother's death was a great 
shock to Millet. For days he hardly spoke, and refused 
to see any one but his wife and children. With them 
he recalled every detail of her beautiful life, and spoke 



120 



J. F. MILLET 



of her care of him as a child, of the unselfishness 
of her affection, her deep piety and firm principles. 
" And to think I should never have seen her again ! " 
he repeated again and again in the bitterness of his 
grief. His thoughts now turned with fresh yearning 
towards his mother, who was ill and suffering, and 
filled with anxiety for the future. Her daughters had 
married, her sons were leaving the country ; the farm 
could no longer suffice for their support, and the poor 
mother thought with a sigh that at her death the home 
would be broken up, and the land, which the Millets 
had owned for hundreds of } r ears, divided among strangers. 
And amid these sad forebodings she poured out the 
sorrow and longing of her soul in a tender letter to her 
eldest son: 



"My dear child," she wrote; "you tell us that you are very 
anxious to see us, and are soon coming here to pay us a long visit. 
I am very anxious to see you too, but it seems that you have not 
the means to come. How do you manage to live? My poor 
child ! when I think of this, I am very unhappy. Oh ! I hope 
you will come and take us by surprise when we least expect you. 
As for me, I cannot either live or die content, so great is my 
longing to see you. Here times are hard and life is sad for us 
all. The wind has parched up the ground, and we know not what 
to do with the animals. They are dying of hunger. The corn is 
bad and the price of wheat seven francs a bushel. And the taxes 
must be paid and all the household expenses. 

" I have been very neglectful in not writing for so long, because 
I thought you would come before the summer was over. But now 
it is almost gone. Yet we are very anxious to see you. 

" I have lost everything, and nothing is left me but to suffer and 
die. My poor child, if you could but come before the winter ! I 
have a great desire to see you once more before I die. I think 
of you oftener than you imagine. I am so weary of suffering 
both in body and mind, and when I think what is to happen to 
you all in the future without any fortunes, I can neither sleep 
nor rest. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



121 



"Tell me how you are getting on, if you have work, and are 
well paid, and if you can sell your pictures. It is strange that 
you have not told us a word about all these revolutions in Paris. 
Is it true that all these things are happening there? Tell us 
something about them. I am always so afraid that you will be 
dragged into them. Will you come here soon? If I had but 
wings, how I would fly to you ! As soon as you receive this 
letter, write back to me. I end by embracing you with all my 
heart, and remain, with all possible love, your mother, 

"Veuve Millet." 



This pathetic appeal went to Millet's heart. He longed 
to leave everything and hasten to his mother's side. But 
he had neither time nor money for the journey. The birth 
of a fourth child in 185 1 made it impossible for him to 
leave his wife that autumn, and all the next year he was 
busy painting new pictures for the Salon and bargaining 
with dealers, who bought his drawings for trifling sums, 
in order, if possible, to free himself from the load of debt 
which oppressed him. The journey to Gr^ville was put 
off, month after month, and he could only write affectionate 
letters to his mother, promising that he would come to 
her as soon as possible. So the faithful soul waited and 
sat in the old home on the cliffs by the sea, listening for 
the step of her boy, and hoping every day to see him open 
the door and walk in. But the weeks became months and 
the months became years and Francois never came. His 
mother's asthma grew worse ; she became rapidly weaker, 
and could write no more. But she still watched and 
waited and believed to the last that he would come. At 
length, one day early in April, 1853, she died with 
Francois' name upon her lips. 

Millet's grief was inconsolable. He shut himself up in 
his studio, and abandoned himself to his despair. A 
few days afterwards he sent Sensier the following 
note : 



122 



J. F. MILLET 



"Monday evening, 26 April, 1853. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I write to tell that my poor mother has just died. I am 
in a state of misery which no words can describe. I try to 
work, but it is impossible to forget my pain. It is a terrible 
blow for me and for those of my sisters who are still at home. 
I cannot understand how they will manage to live. I am in the 
most frightful condition of grief and anxiety. I clasp your hand. 

"J. F. Millet." 

It was then in his bitter grief, as he thought of his poor 
mother's last words, of her longing to see him and of 
her patient years of waiting, that the idea of his picture, 
L'Attente, first came into his mind. He took out his old 
Bible and read the familiar tale of Tobit and his wife, 
and remembered how they too had waited and looked 
for their son's return. And then and there he made a 
sketch of two aged parents, sitting at the door of their 
cottage in the forest, straining their eyes towards the 
distant horizon, where the sun is setting, in the vain 
hope of seeing the wanderer return. Even so in the 
old home, his mother and grandmother had waited for 
the son who never came, and for the footstep which 
they were to hear no more. The picture, which he 
painted some years later and exhibited in the Salon of 
1 86 1, is one of the most pathetic poems with which 
he was ever inspired. It was bought soon afterwards 
by an American collector, and, like so many of Millet's 
finest works, is still in the New World. 

The death of Millet's mother made a visit to Gr6ville 
necessary. His brothers wrote that without him it 
was impossible to divide the property or make any 
definite arrangements. Fortunately, he had succeeded 
in selling a few pictures and had finished three impor- 
tant works for the Salon of 1853. So he decided to 
start at once, and set out for Normandy on the 5th of 
May, after sending Sensier the following note: 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



123 



"Tuesday, 3rd May, 1853. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" My brothers and sisters write that my presence is indispens- 
able and that I must go and help them arrange their affairs. Little 
as I understand business, they say I must be there. I start on 
Thursday. I do not know if I shall be able to see you before I 
set out on my journey. Anyhow, this is to say good-bye and to 
wish you good health. I shall probably be away a month. 

"J. F. Millet." 



That week the eight children of Jean Louis Millet 
met at Gruchy and divided their modest inheritance. 
Francois gave up his share in the house and land to 
his brother Auguste, who was to remain at Gruchy, 
and only asked for his great-uncle Abb6 Charles's books, 
and the great oak cupboard which had been handed 
down for many generations in the family, and had 
stood in the house for hundreds of years. And he 
begged that the ivy which trailed round the lattice 
casement of the kitchen and over the old stone well 
should be left untouched, a condition which has been 
faithfully observed by his brother, and after him by 
the widowed sister-in-law, who now lives in that por- 
tion of the house. 

The sight of the old cliffs, the view of the sea, which 
he had loved from his childhood, stirred the painter's 
heart to its depths. He found time to take sketches by 
the seashore, and his youngest brother Pierre, now a 
lad of nineteen, was proud to carry his easel and canvas 
and to watch him at his work. He made drawings of 
the big hearth, where the whole family used to assemble 
at evening, and of the brass Cannes and kettles on the 
kitchen shelves. He even insisted on carrying off one 
of his mother's large brass water-pots, which he kept 
as a precious relic in his house at Barbizon. These 
familiar scenes naturally revived many of his saddest 



124 



J. F. MILLET 



memories. He missed his mother and grandmother at 
every turn, and felt so wretched away from his wife 
and children that he shortened his stay and hurried 
back to Barbizon. But his love for his native soil was 
as strong as ever, and he left Gr£ville with the fixed 
intention of bringing his family there, as soon as pos- 
sible, for a longer visit. 

Fortune now began to turn a kinder face upon him. 
His pictures in the Salon of 1853 had been favourably 
received by the critics, and were all three sold before the 
end of the summer. The largest and finest of the three 
was his Ruth and Boas, or, as it was called in the 
catalogue of the Salon, Le Repas des Moissonneurs. This 
composition, which had engaged his attention ever since 
his arrival at Barbizon in 1849, represented a group of 
reapers taking their mid-day rest in the shade of a 
wheat-rick. In the fore-front a farmer is seen laying 
his hand on the shoulder of a young girl who has been 
gleaning the ears of corn, apparently without his leave. 
The Biblical character of the composition was plainly 
felt. This peasant, wrote a journalist, might easily pass 
for Boaz, and this startled gleaner might be Ruth her- 
self. The artist himself had taken infinite pains with 
his subject, but had not been satisfied with the result. 
"I feel," he said disconsolately, "like a man who sings 
in tune, but with a voice so weak that he can hardly 
make himself heard." Yet the best critics recognised 
the excellence of his intention and the vigour and 
originality of his execution. 



" M. Millet's Reapers are certainly not handsome," wrote 
Theophile Gautier ; " he has not copied them from the Belvedere 
Apollo. Their noses are flat, their lips thick, their cheek-bones 
prominent, their clothes coarse and ragged. But in all this we 
see a secret force, a singular vigour, a rare knowledge of line 
and action, an intelligent sacrifice of detail, a simplicity of colour 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



125 



which give these rustics a proud and imposing air, and at times 
recall the statues of Michelangelo. In spite of their poverty and 
ugliness, they have the majesty of toilers who are in direct con- 
tact with Nature." 

Another able critic, who in that Salon first recognised 
Millet as the interpreter of a new idea, and pronounced 
him to be at once the strongest and most poetic artist 
of the day, was Theodore Pelloquet. This discerning 
writer was not personally acquainted with Millet, and 
did not even know the painter by sight. But he was 
one of the first to recognise the presence of a new and 
powerful element in art, and to the end of his life he 
never ceased to speak of Millet as a great man, whose 
genius would one day be recognised as the glory of his 
age. 

Millet obtained a second-class medal at the close of the 
Salon. His Reapers was bought by an American, Mr. 
Martin Brimmer, who has a fine collection of the 
master's pictures and drawings in his house at Boston; 
and his two smaller pictures — A Shepherd of Barbison, 
and A Young Woman Shearing a Sheep, the first idea of 
his Grande Tondeuse — were both bought by another 
citizen of the United States, who had lately settled at 
Barbizon, the artist William Morris Hunt. 

At the same time a distinguished connoisseur, M. 
Atger, bought several of his drawings, and he received 
an order for a picture from a Dutchman who had seen 
his works in the Salon. He writes to Sensier respect- 
ing this last-named patron on the 15th of November, 
1853. 



"My dear Sensier, — 

" . . . A propos of the man from Holland, here are some 
considerations. The sum of 500 francs is not to be despised — far 
from it ; but I should like, if such a thing were possible, to raise my 



126 



J. F. MILLET 



prices. You will tell me, and I am ready to accept your decision, 
whether it is best at this time to say Yes or No. At the same 
time, if it is not too much trouble, ask for 600 francs, and make 
it appear that I will not paint the two pictures for less. But if 
it is already understood that he will not give more than 500, 
take it upon yourself to settle the matter at that price. All this 
is very perplexing, but I am afraid, on the one hand, of raising 
my prices unreasonably ; on the other, of working too long for 
low prices. Sacre nom de Dieu ! all this seems foolish, and 
perhaps after all it will be better simply to say that I cannot 
do the work for less than 600 francs. Really this irresolution is 
foolish ! Once for all, I will not take less than 600. It is not 
so much a case of bargaining for 100 francs more or less — al- 
though that is the sum which I insist upon — but 300 francs 
sounds to me a much larger sum than 250 ! It seems to me 
half as much again. 

"As for the Feydeau order, that pleases me perfectly. Bring 
the canvases and panels of the proper sizes, and we will talk 
over the subjects which are to be painted on them." 



This letter, which is one of those not included in 
Sensier's book which has been lately published by Mr. 
Bartlett, is interesting as showing a resolute effort on 
Millet's part to obtain a fair price for his pictures. It 
may also be taken as a proof that at this time he was 
in no want of work. He was engaged in finishing this 
commission for the " man from Holland," when one 
day in January he received a visit from a stranger, who 
had been privately directed to his atelier by his good 
friend Rousseau, and who immediately bought a picture. 
He hastened to inform Sensier of the good news, and 
at the same time to make his usual request for a loan 
of ready money. 

"Barbizon, Thursday, 19 January, 1854. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" On Saturday last I received a letter from a M. Letrone, 
whom I do not know, asking if he might come and see me at 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



127 



Barbizon, and when he would find me at home. I replied that 
he might come when he liked. He came yesterday, and bought 
my Women Putting Bread in the Oven for 800 francs, and another 
little picture which I am to make from a sketch which he has 
seen for 400 francs. This gentleman has a son who has been, 
and, for all I know, may be still, a pupil of Rousseau. 

" I am working, in spite of frequent interruptions, at my 
picture of A Woman Sewing by the Light of a Lamp for the 
Dutchman. It is already in a forward state, but trivial matters 
disturb me too often. 

" This is what I have to ask of you. Do me the kindness, if 
you can, to send me a sum of fifty francs, and any more you 
can spare. I will pay you back directly I get an instalment of 
the money due to me, either from M. Atger, or from the Dutch- 
man, or one of fifty others. Since my funds were running low, 
I meant to devote a day to make a drawing or two for Atger, 
but my work has been hindered by violent headaches, and I 
have reached the bottom of my purse. If you can let me have 
the money, please send it at once — at once I repeat, for I have 
literally only two francs left. You will tell me that I ought not 
to have put off writing to you so long, but even the day before 
yesterday I was lying down like a calf all day, and yesterday 
this visit took up my time. 

" J. F. Millet." 

Happily for Millet M. Letrone's orders did not end 
here. He came back again a few weeks later and 
ordered two more pictures. One of these was that fine 
composition of a Woman Feeding; Hens on the Steps of 
her House, for which the painter received 2,000 francs 
— an enormous sum in his eyes. 

For the first time in his life Millet felt himself a rich 
man. He repaid Sensier's loan, satisfied his most press- 
ing creditors, and set off in June with his whole family 
for Greville. 

On Sunday, the 18th of June, 1854, ne wrote to Sensier 
in high spirits : 

" I start for my Normandy to-morrow, Monday. In the words 



128 



J. F. MILLET 



of the old song, l Je vais revoir via Normandie? At least we 
go to Paris to-morrow, and start on Tuesday, so that the chil- 
dren may not be too tired when they begin their journey in 
the diligence, of which they will have had enough by the time 
we reach Cherbourg ! I know not if I shall find you ; it will 
not be my fault if I do not. I wish you good health, and 
say, Au revoir/ I hope to return in a month's time. All good 
wishes ! 

"J. F. Millet." 



His visit to Gr6ville was to last a month, but Millet 
put off his return day after day, and in the end he 
remained there four months. It was a period of great 
interest and importance in the artist's career. At first 
the sight of the altered home brought tears to his eyes. 
The old house had been divided, and the inmates were 
scattered far and wide. Some were dead, others were 
gone. Of all the brothers and sisters who had grown 
up under the same roof, but two were left. One was 
Auguste, who still inhabited his father's house, under 
whose roof Millet and his family took up their abode ; 
the other was his beloved sister Emilie, who had married 
a Greville tarmer named Lefevre, and who welcomed 
Francois and his family with the warmest affection. By 
degrees the first painful impression passed away, and 
he felt himself at home again. He put on blouse and 
sabots, joined his old comrades in the harvest-field, and 
shared in their labours as he had done in old days. 
His brother Pierre, who was also bent upon making 
art his profession, and was now studying sculpture in 
Cherbourg, came to spend Sundays at Gruchy, and 
declared that he had never seen Francois in such fine 
spirits before. He forgot his own cares and the troubles 
of the political world, and never even read a newspaper. 
" The poetry of the fields," writes Pierre, " filled his soul 
completely." His old delight in the rocks and in the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



129 



sea, in the wild moorland and in the green pastures and 
orchards returned. He revisited the favourite haunts of 
his childhood with his wife, and sketched every corner 
of the ancestral domain with religious care. The house 
and garden, the barns and stables, the orchard and 
meadows, even the cider-press and the yard, were all 
faithfully recorded in his sketch-book, and supplied him 
with subjects for many a picture in years to come. The 
old elm-tree under the window, " gnawed by the teeth 
of the wind, and bathed in aerial space," which had 
played so great a part in his young dreams, the laurel 
bush fit for Apollo, the cattle feeding on the short grass 
on the top of the cliffs at the edge of the sea, were all 
painted in turn. He made excursions with his wife to 
the ancient farmhouses and decayed mansions, which he 
used to visit with his old great-uncle. He went to the 
Hameau Cousin, and the Priory of Vauville, and took 
hasty pencil sketches of all these places, which he after- 
wards outlined carefully in pen and ink, or washed 
over with colour. During the four months which he 
spent at Greville, he painted as many as fourteen 
pictures, and finished upwards of twenty drawings, 
besides filling two complete albums with studies. The 
impressions of his youth were revived and strengthened, 
and he returned to Barbizon with an inexhaustible store 
of material for future use. 

One evening, on his way back from some distant 
walk, he paused at the door of the little church of 
Eculleville. The Angelus was ringing, and he went 
inside. There the figure of an old man kneeling before 
the altar caught his eye. He waited, and presently the 
old priest rose from his knees and touched him gently 
on the shoulder, saying in a low voice, "Francois!" It 
was his first teacher, the Abbe Jean Lebrisseux. 

" Ah ! it is you, my dear child, little Francois ! " the 

K 



130 



J. F. MILLET 



good old man cried ; and they embraced each other 
with tears in their eyes. 

" And your Bible, Francois, have you forgotten it ? " 
asked the Cure presently. " The Psalms you were so 
fond of — do you ever read them now?" 

" They are my breviary," replied Millet. "It is there 
I find all that I paint." 

" I seldom hear such words nowadays," said the old 
Abbe, with a sigh of thankfulness. " But you will have 
your reward. And Virgil — you were very fond of him 
in old days." 

"I love him still," replied Millet. 

" That is well. I am content, my son," said the old 
man. " Where I sowed, the blade has sprung up. It 
is you who will one day reap the harvest, my child." 

And so they parted. 

The summer months slipped by, Millet went back to 
Paris, and the good old priest, who had loved him as a 
father, never saw his face again. But his prayers had 
been answered, and he could die happy. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



*3* 



IV 



1854-1855 



WHILE Millet was absent at Gr6ville that summer 
his cottage home at Barbizon had been con- 
siderably improved. The three-roomed house was too 
small for his increasing family and frequent visitors; 
and his landlord, the Wolf, as he was called in the 
village, seeing that he had in Millet a permanent tenant, 
agreed to make certain improvements in the house. 
The old barn in the corner of the garden, alongside of 
the street, was fitted up as a studio : the roof was 
ceiled, a wooden floor — a luxury seldom known in Bar- 
bizon — was laid down, a large, clumsy window was built 
at one end, and opened in the north wall, looking on 
to the street. This old grange, which had served as a 
shelter for cows and horses, or a storehouse for grain 
and hay, now became the painter's permanent studio. 
Here, during the next twenty years, all his great 
pictures and all his famous drawings saw the light. 
Here the foremost artists of the day — Rousseau and 
Corot, Diaz and Barye — watched him at work and sat 
for many an hour in the big arm-chair in the corner. 
Here, long after he was dead, his admirers from all 
parts of the world came in a ceaseless stream to visit 
the spot which was so closely associated with his 
memory. To-day the studio is still standing, but the 
interior has been completely altered, and the whole 
place wears a new and modern look. In Millet's time 
the walls were neither papered nor stained ; three or 



132 



J. F. MILLET 



four easels, a couch covered with chintz, and a table 
heaped up with a disorderly collection of brushes, 
chalks, books and papers, were the only furniture. A 
green curtain was drawn over the lower part of the 
window, and an iron stove stood near the easel at which 
Millet usually worked. A few casts of the Elgin 
marbles and the Column of Trajan, a bust of Clytie and 
a head of Achilles stood on shelves along the wall ; 
while in one corner of the room lay a whole heap of 
blouses and aprons of every shade of blue — some of 
the deepest indigo, others bleached almost white from 
constant exposure to sun and air. Here, too, were 
handkerchiefs for the head — marmottes as they were 
called in Millet's old home— cloaks and skirts of faded 
hues, more beautiful in his eyes than the richest stuffs. 
Blue, he told one of his American friends, was always 
his favourite colour ; and it certainly holds a prominent 
place in his pictures. On the floor, heaped together 
in careless confusion, lay piles of canvases in various 
states of progress — some only lately begun, others which 
had not been touched for years. 

When this new studio was fitted up, the old atelier 
was converted into a dining-room, communicating with 
the rest of the house, and the hen-house was replaced 
by a small kitchen. Millet himself, after his return from 
Normandy, built a hen-house of rough stones which he 
brought from the forest, and thatched it with his own 
hands. He still cultivated the garden himself, and 
besides growing vegetables for his own use, he planted 
vines and fruit-trees on the walls and filled the little 
courtyard with fragrant flowers. During his absence 
at Greville the vines and creepers had climbed up the 
walls of house and studio, and on his return he found 
nasturtiums, morning-glories and briar-roses growing 
together in a tangled thicket. This wild beauty charmed 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



133 



him, and he wrote to Pierre that his garden was turned 
into a perfect fairy-land. After the property was bought 
by Sensier some years later, further improvements were 
made, and by degrees the little place became a pleasant 
and comfortable home. At one time Millet thought of 
building a house and making himself what he called a 
nest of his own. But the dread of becoming involved 
in fresh liabilities made him give up his plan ; and 
he remained to the end — what he always declared his 
grandmother had taught him to detest — the tenant of 
another man's house. 

His friend Jacque, who had originally taken the 
neighbouring cottage, soon quarrelled with the Barbizon 
peasants, and before long made himself hated in the 
village. The boys chalked impertinent names upon his 
doors, and teased him in every possible way ; and the 
indignant artist was often to be seen standing in the 
street holding a furious dialogue with a crowd of women 
and children, who often proved more than a match for 
him. Before many years were over these annoyances 
increased to such a pitch, that he sold his property to 
Sensier and left Barbizon. 

Millet never stooped to these quarrels and often 
annoyed Jacque by his endeavours to bring him to 
reason. He led a quiet and reserved life, attending to 
his own business and seldom mixing with his neigh- 
bours. He was never to be seen at the inn, excepting 
on the occasion of some rare festivity, when it would 
have seemed unfriendly to hold aloof. At the marriage 
of Pere Ganne's daughter to the Arras painter, Eugene 
Cuvelier, he and Rousseau decorated the barn with ivy, 
and Coret opened the ball and led the bottle-dance to the 
tune of rustic violins. Empty bottles were placed in 
rows along the floor, and the man or girl who knocked 
one over was out of the dance. They began slowly and 



134 



J. F. MILLET 



danced ever faster and faster, until they ended in a furious 
gallop, and the last remaining dancer received a flower 
from the bride as his reward. Millet with his wife and 
friends were all present on that occasion, but as a rule 
they had little to do with the artists who thronged to 
Pere Ganne's or Siron's hostelries during the summer 
months, or with the peasants of Barbizon. 

The only persons with whom Millet associated were a 
few intimate friends, who, like Rousseau and Barye, 
made Barbizon their home, or who, like Sensier and Cam- 
predon, or Diaz, came down there on occasional visits. 
Foremost among the residents at Barbizon during the 
first years that Millet spent there, was the American 
artist, William Morris Hunt. He was a pupil of Cou- 
ture, who had known Millet in Paris, and who, moved 
with enthusiastic admiration for the man and his works, 
had followed him to Barbizon. Here he lived in almost 
daily intercourse with the painter during the next five 
years, sharing his closest intimacy and entering with 
warm sympathy into his trials. More than once this 
genial and kindly soul came to Millet's rescue in his 
hour of sorest need, and helped him in the most generous 
and thoughtful way. He it was who bought both of the 
small pictures which Millet exhibited in the Salon of 
1853 — The Young Shepherd and The Woman Shearing 
Sheep — and who first introduced his works to the notice 
of American connoisseurs. In 1855 Hunt, who was him- 
self a frequent exhibitor in the Salons, left France to 
return to the United States, and settled in Boston, where 
he attained considerable reputation as a landscape painter, 
and spread the fame of the Barbizon master far and 
wide among his countrymen on the other side of the 
Atlantic. When first he became acquainted with Millet, 
he must have been quite a lad, and he was not yet thirty 
when he returned to Boston. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



135 



Sensier scarcely mentions him, but he played an im- • 
portant part in Millet's life at this period ; and although . 
his name does not often appear in his letters to Sensier, 
he once told another of his American admirers, Edward 
Wheelwright, that William Hunt had been the best and 
most intimate friend that he had ever had. 

The presence of Hunt brought other citizens of the 
New World to Barbizon, and a little colony of American 
artists soon grew up round Millet's home. William Bab- 
cock, of Boston, who had taken lessons of Millet in Paris, 
in 1848, was a permanent resident at Barbizon, a loyal 
friend of Millet, and an enthusiastic admirer of his art. 
Two others, Edward Wheelwright and Wyatt Eaton, 
who also paid long visits to Barbizon, have both of them 
left us interesting recollections of the painter at different 
periods of his life. Another American, William Low, 
and the Irish artist Richard Hearn, who, like Hunt, was 
a pupil of Couture, and frequent exhibitor at the Paris 
Salon, belonged to the same circle and were among the 
privileged friends and guests who met at Millet's table. 

But of all the Barbizon artists whom Millet knew and 
loved, the greatest and the most unfortunate was Theo- 
dore Rousseau. He had first been attracted, like Diaz, by 
the beauty and originality of Millet's pastels in the Salon 
of 1844, and from that time had earnestly sought for 
an opportunity of making the painter's acquaintance. 
On Millet's return to Paris after his second marriage in 
1845, Rousseau had at length accomplished his purpose, 
and had succeeded in forming a personal acquaintance 
with the shy Norman artist. But both men were re- 
served and silent ; Rousseau was naturally suspicious of 
strangers, and Millet was repelled, as he afterwards con- 
fessed, by the luxurious surroundings of Rousseau's 
studio. Even after he settled at Barbizon, with Rousseau 
as a neighbour during the whole of the summer and a 



1 36 J. F. MILLET 

• great part of the winter months, it took some years 
before the two artists became friends. Yet they had 
many things in common. Both were equally single- 
minded in their ideas of art, both had the same passionate 
love of Nature and delight in the beauty of sky and field. 
Both had a hard and uphill battle to fight, before they 
could gain a hearing from the world, and Rousseau 
up to this time had been at least as unfortunate as 
Millet. He had to endure a long struggle with poverty, 
and until the latter years of his life was constantly bur- 
dened with financial difficulties. Worse than this, he 
was linked to an unhappy woman, who suffered from fits 
of mental derangement, and whose presence made his 
life an incessant torture, while his love for her was so 
true that he could not find it in his heart to part from 
her. 

By degrees, however, the two men began to know each 
other and the ice was broken. Millet talked half in jest, 
and half in earnest, of his difficulties and aspirations, 
and Rousseau, ere long, opened his heart to him in return. 
They took long walks in the forest together on Sunday 
afternoons, and stood at the same gate to watch the sun 
go down over the plain. They shared their impressions 
of man and Nature, and soon became fast friends. 
Rousseau, who would never take advice from any other 
artist, began to consult Millet about his pictures. Millet 
gave him his opinion with a frankness which no one 
else would have dared to use. But Rousseau had from 
the first the highest admiration for his friend's genius, 
and trusted him implicitly. And Millet on his part 
always declared Rousseau to be the first living master 
of landscape, and looked forward confidently to a day 
when his greatness would be publicly recognised. As 
early as December, 185 1, we find Millet writing in 
affectionate terms of his brother-artist to Sensier: 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



137 



" Will Rousseau come here, I wonder ? If he does not come, 
I shall spend the winter here alone. In one way, I shall not be 
sorry. There will be moments when I shall feel my solitude, 
but I shall not find it really tedious. I love my ' toad's hole ' 
too well for that, and the impressions which I receive daily from 
the natural world around me will prevent me from feeling this 
loneliness oppressive." 

And again, in the early spring of 1853, when he him- 
self was busy preparing his Reapers for the Salon, he 
writes to Rousseau, who was then in Paris, urging him 
to complete his forest landscape in time, and gives him 
practical advice as to the composition of the picture. 

" My dear Rousseau, — 

" I do not know if the two sketches which I enclose will be 
of any use to you. I merely wish to show you where I would 
place the figures in your picture, that is all. You know better than 
I do what is best, and what you wish to do. 

" These last few days we have had some effects of hoar-frost, 
which I am not going to try and describe, feeling how useless this 
would be ! I will content myself with saying that God alone can 
ever have seen such marvellously fairy-like scenes. I only wish 
that you could have been here to see them. Have you finished 
your pictures? because you have only a month more in which 
to finish your Forest, and it is very important indeed that this picture 
should be in the Salon. In fact, it must absolutely be there. 

" I am trying to be ready in time myself. I think that by 
working steadily I shall manage it. My picture begins to look 
well as a whole, but I live in dread of hindrances. The onfy 
thing one can do is to work like a slave ! Good-bye, my dear 
Rousseau, and accept a whole pile of cordial good wishes." 

In the following year, 1854, Rousseau, finding himself 
unexpectedly in funds, owing to the sale of several pic- 
tures, purchased Millet's fine winter landscape, A Peasant 
Spreading Manure on the Land, originally one of a set of 
drawings of The Four Seasons, which he executed about 
this time for Laveille. Twelve months later he gave a 



i3« 



J. F. MILLET 



still more decisive proof of his generous admiration for 
his friend's work. 

The year 1855 is remarkable in the history of French 
painting as the date of the first International Exhibition 
of Art that was ever held in Paris. The Emperor 
Napoleon III. determined to celebrate the opening years 
of his reign by a series of brilliant festivities, and to 
bring all the crowned heads of Europe, if possible, to 
meet at his Court. With this end in view, he decided 
to merge the Salons of 1854 an d 1855 into one grand 
exhibition of the art of all nations, which he opened 
in person with great state and show. All the leading 
men of 1830, whose works had been excluded under the 
old regime, appeared in great force on this occasion. 
Rousseau's pictures excited the greatest admiration among 
the English, American, and Russian visitors, and a number 
of his works were sold before the close of the Exhibition. 
Only one canvas by Millet's hand figured in that memor- 
able show, but it was an admirable example of his most 
characteristic style. A line of his favourite poet had 
inspired him with the subject : 

"Insere, Daphne, piros : carpent tua poma nepotes." 

A young peasant is represented in the act of grafting a 
tree in an orchard in front of his house, while his wife 
looks on with her baby in her arms. The earnest faces 
of the young parents, the presence of the wife and child, 
and of the thatched cottage in the background, made this 
little picture a complete parable of that honest thrift and 
industry which, combined with love of home, is so marked 
a feature among the better class of the French peasantry. 



" M. Millet, it is plain," wrote Theophile Gautier, " understands 
the true poetry of the fields. He loves the peasants whom he 
represents. In his grave and serious types we read the sympathy 
which he feels with their lives. In his pictures sowing, reaping, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



139 



and grafting are all of them sacred actions, which have a beauty 
and grandeur of their own, together with a touch of Virgilian 
melancholy." 

Rousseau had watched the progress of Millet's picture 
with the keenest interest, and was deeply moved by his 
patient and poetic rendering of the subject. In his eyes 
it was a type of the artist's own life. 

"Yes," he said to Sensier one day, when he was more 
than usually communicative, "Millet works for his family; 
he wears himself out like a tree which bears too many 
flowers and fruits, and toils night and day for the sake of 
his children. He grafts buds of a higher philosophy on 
the robust stem of a wild stock, and under the garb of a 
peasant he hides thoughts worthy of Virgil." 

A few minutes later he added : " This time I mean to 
find him a buyer." 

A week or two later he wrote to Sensier : 

" Well, I have kept my word, and have sold Millet's picture. 
I have actually found an American who will give 4,000 francs for 
his Grafter ! " 

The sum named by Rousseau sounded incredible in the 
ears of Sensier, who had tramped the streets of Paris in 
vain to try and find buyers to give as much as a thousand 
francs for Millet's other works. He smiled at the notion, 
and frankly owns that he held Rousseau's American to 
be a myth, until one morning the painter paid down the 
4,000 francs in gold. Upon this Sensier begged eagerly 
to be allowed to see this nabob, who was so enlightened 
a patron of art. After some hesitation Rousseau con- 
sented to gratify his curiosity, and invited him to come 
and meet the American at his house the next day. 
Sensier presented himself at the appointed time, and 
was met at the door by Rousseau. 

"Come in," he said; "he is here awaiting you." 



140 



J. F. MILLET 



Sensier followed his friend inside the house, and looked 
around in vain for the expected visitor. Rousseau re- 
mained silent for a few moments, enjoying the sight of 
his perplexity. Then he said: 

" Well, if you must know it, I am that American. But 
swear that you will tell no one else my secret. Millet 
must believe in the existence of the American. It will 
cheer him up, and help me to buy some more of his 
pictures at a reasonable price." 

A whole year elapsed before Millet discovered his 
friend's plot. Meanwhile The Grafter became Rousseau's 
property, and after his death passed into the Hartmann 
collection. It was eventually bought by a genuine 
American, and now belongs to Mr. Rockafeller, of New 
York. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



HI 



V 



I 855- I 856 



THE year 1855 is admitted by Sensier to have been 
a prosperous one for Millet. He sold several pictures 
and paid off many of his old debts. This enabled him 
to devote his time and thoughts to new conceptions, and 
to work out his ideas in peace. His Greville sketches 
became the subjects of new compositions, and many of 
his finest works were begun at this time. One of these 
was the famous Water-carrier which excited so much 
interest when it was exhibited in i860. Another, the 
noble picture of L'Attente, or Tobit and his wife expect- 
ing the return of their son, was begun early in 1853, 
and at the end of a few weeks put aside, and banished 
to the usual place on the shelf. It was Millet's habit 
to have several pictures in hand at once, and to begin 
more than he ever had time to finish. At the beginning 
of i860, he had, we learn, as many as twenty-five 
pictures in his atelier in various stages of progress. 
Often he would set to work with ardour on a new 
subject, and then, just when in the eyes of others it 
seemed to be approaching completion, he would put it 
aside for no apparent reason, and take up some altogether 
new idea. In this way many half-finished pictures 
remained in his atelier, sometimes for as many as twenty 
years. The Hameau Cousin, for instance, a view of an 
old farm near his home, which he commenced soon after 
his return from Greville, late in the autumn of 1854, 
was only finished during the last year of his life. 



142 



J. F. MILLET 



He had already come to the conclusion that he should 
never live long enough to paint all the pictures which 
he had in his mind, and that he must find some simpler 
means of expression if he was ever to tell the world all 
that he had to say. With this object he endeavoured 
to learn the art of etching, and during the winter of 
1 855- 1 856, he paid frequent visits to Paris, and spent 
much of his time in trying to master the process. M. 
Mantz gives a list of twenty-one etchings by his hand, 
most of which were executed at this period. The first 
of the series was a boat at sea under a stormy sky, 
evidently a reminiscence of the Norman coast. Another, 
the sea-weed gatherers — Ramasseurs de Varech — at the 
foot of the cliffs of Greville recalled another impression 
of his childhood. La Couseuse, a young woman in a 
white cap sitting in a chair near a diamond-paned case- 
ment, at work on her husband's coat, is evidently taken 
from the drawing which the artist made of his wife in 
1853. Two others, La Baratteuse, a woman churning, 
a subject which he afterwards repeated both in oils and 
water-colours, and a peasant pushing a wheel-barrow 
loaded with manure, also bear the date of 1855. La 
VeilUe, two women sewing by the light of a lamp hang- 
ing on a pole by the side of a curtained bed, was 
executed early in 1856. Other plates which bear no 
date, but apparently form part of the same series, are: 
a woman carding wool, a child driving a flock of geese 
into the pond, a peasant-woman leading two cows to 
pasture, a woman laying out clothes to dry, a man 
leaning on his spade, and a woman knitting. 

Four of the series are reproductions from well-known 
pictures. Two of these, Allant Travailler and Les 
Bicheurs, belong to this period ; the two others, the finest 
of all Millet's etchings, Les Glaneuses and La Grande 
Bergere, were executed several years later. One very 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



h; 



rare plate, a young woman blowing on a spoonful of 
broth which she is about to give to the child in her 
arms, bears the date 1861 ; while another, the earliest 
ever attempted by Millet, representing a shepherd leaning 
on his staff between two sheep, is dated 1849, and signed 
with the name of Charles Jacque. This signature was 
mischievously added, Sensier tells us, by Jacque himself 
one evening when Millet made this first attempt at 
etching under his direction on the corner of a table at 
the house of their mutual friend, the printer Delatre. 
Ten of these etchings, together with the interesting 
series published by Laveille, under the title of Les 
Travaux des Champs, appeared, a few years ago, in an 
English edition with a brilliant introduction from the 
pen of Mr. W. E. Henley. 

On the whole, however, Millet's experiments in this 
branch of art cannot be said to have been successful. 
He ruined many plates and wasted a great deal of 
precious time. Sometimes he left the plates by accident 
for a whole night in water, and at other times a portion 
of the etching was found to be effaced or_ imperfectly 
bitten. Then Millet would destroy the stone and only a 
few rare impressions would remain in existence. Before 
long he came to the conviction that pastel and charcoal 
were better suited to the expression of his dreams, and 
gave up etching altogether. The process of biting, he 
told his friends playfully, was evidently not one for 
which Nature had intended him. But he still occasionally 
tried his hand at a plate, and often employed his brother 
Pierre to etch his designs. 

After his mother's death, and the breaking up of the 
old home, two of his brothers had adopted art as their 
profession, and had come to seek their fortune in Paris. 
As a natural result they sought shelter at Barbizon, and 
Francois was for many years their teacher. The elder 



144 



J. F. MILLET 



of the two, Jean Baptiste, became a painter of some 
merit, and exhibited many water-colours, chiefly land- 
scapes and peasant-subjects, at the Salon between 1870 
and 1880. The reputation of his brother naturally helped 
him in his career, and dealers repeatedly offered him 
large sums for his works if he would consent to drop 
his second name, or even write the letter B less distinctly. 
But Jean Baptiste had inherited the straightforward 
honesty of his race, and steadily declined to confuse the 
public as to his identity. The younger brother Pierre — 
who has left us many precious recollections of Millet — 
came to Paris early in 1855, to follow his profession as 
a sculptor, upon which Francois immediately wrote to 
him : " Since you have decided to come to Paris, I wish 
you would come and stay with me for some time and 
learn drawing." The young man gratefully accepted his 
brother's invitation and spent the three following years 
— 1855-1858 — under Millet's roof. His arrival is men- 
tioned in a letter written by Millet in the year 1855, 
although Sensier places it some time later. But Hunt, 
who is also mentioned in the same letter, left Barbizon 
for good before the end of the year. The painter had 
just recovered from one of the headaches which so often 
interrupted his work, and in his relief at freedom from 
pain wrote cheerfully: 

" I am certainly much better, and have begun to work again. 
My plan of buying a house is put off for the present. I am afraid 
of embarking on a venture of this extent, all the more since I find 
nothing at present which suits my taste well enough. But I must 
wait. Pierre, my youngest brother, has just arrived at Barbizon. 
Hunt has been here for a few days. When is Rousseau coming ? 

"J. F. Millet." 



This plan of buying a house also belongs, it is clear, to 
the earlier date. For, in 1855, the painter's affairs, as we 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



145 



have already remarked, were in a fairly prosperous 
condition, while in the following year the clouds again 
closed over his head, and between 1856 and i860 he went 
through another period of financial anxiety. On New 
Year's Day, 1856, he sent Sensier one of his most despair- 
ing letters. A whole host of creditors in the shape of 
Chailly tradesmen seem to have invaded his house, and 
the painter found himself as usual utterly helpless in their 
hands. 



"Barbizon, 1st January, 1856. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" This time I am indeed in a fine mess ! I have just found 
a summons to pay the sum of 607 francs 60 centimes to M, 

X (tailor), within the next twenty-four hours. This man acts 

like a vampire. He had promised to take a note until the month 

of March. At the same time, G (the baker) has refused to 

supply bread, and has been abominably rude. It has come to this — 
a whole procession of bailiffs and creditors will march through the 
house ! A very gay prospect, truly ! 

" I have just seen the bailiff, and have told him, in my ignorance, 
that credit was an accepted and understood thing. Does not the 
law then admit of such arrangements ? According to this plan, a 
tradesman can set a trap for you by offering to give you credit for 
a year, and at the end of six months, bringing you his bill and com- 
pelling you to pay ! The law, it appears, recognises none of these 
matters. If you owe money, you must pay ! This has, in a great 
measure, satisfied me as to my inability to understand business, 
since, as far as I can see, you must put aside all honest reasoning 
and good sense if you are to fathom the trickery of lawyers, which, 
as far as I can see, is merely another name for cheating ! Since the 
law has the right to take me by the neck in this fashion, what will 
happen next ? Pray tell me at once, for I cannot admit the right 
of the law to use violence, unless I refuse payment. I thought 
the object of the law was to effect conciliations. Tell me — for I 
have a dull brain — how far people can go, who mean to proceed with 
the utmost rigour and whose conscience is never troubled by their 
actions. You may, of course, be shocked to think of what the law 
can do, and say, ' That would be wrong, odious indeed,' etc. But 



146 



J. F. MILLET 



I want you to tell me, not what is right or wrong, but what can be 
done in the name of the law. Rousseau, to whom I repeated what 
the bailiff said, is furious ! Answer immediately. 

"J. F. Millet." 



This letter reveals at once the simplicity of Millet's 
character, and his absolute ignorance of the most ordinary 
business. He had grown up in a home where food and 
clothes alike were the produce of the farm, and money 
seldom passed between the peasant-owners. His Paris 
experiences, it might have been supposed, would have 
brought him wisdom ; but he had failed to learn the 
lesson, and to the end he remained as ignorant of money 
matters as a child. Sensier assures us that these crises 
in Millet's affairs recurred perpetually in the course of 
the next few years, and that his letters were one pro- 
longed cry of misery and despair. And in support of 
this statement he quotes the following fragments of his 
letters : 

" Ah ! the end of the month is come — where shall I turn for 
money ? The children must have food before anything else ! 

" My heart is all black. . . . 

" If you knew how dark the future looks, even the next few 
weeks ! But at least let us work unto the end. . . . " 

" I have a series of sick headaches, which interrupt my work 
at every other moment. I am sadly behindhand. What if I 
cannot get done by the end of the month ? . . . " 

Or else in his misery he sends this one word, " Come." 
These sentences, read continuously, certainly produce 
a melancholy impression. But if we take them for what 
they really were, isolated exclamations scattered up and 
down the letters of many years, it must be confessed 
they lose much of their harrowing effect. That Millet felt 
deeply and suffered keenly is evident to all. This, as 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



H7 



the good priest of Greville had long ago foreseen, was 
the inevitable consequence of his poet's nature ; and 
like all who have the gift of utterance, he gave voice 
to his complaints and did not always suffer in silence. 
But when Sensier gravely tells us that his correspon- 
dence reads like the story of men starving in the wilder- 
ness, it is impossible not to feel that he exaggerates the 
situation. He seems indeed to take pleasure in dwell- 
ing on the dark side of the picture, and insists so much 
on the misery and poverty which Millet endured, that 
he fails to give a really accurate account of his friend's 
life. 

Since Sensier wrote, other friends, we must remember, 
have given us their impressions of Millet at this period 
of his life — men who were, like him, intimately ac- 
quainted with the artist, who lived in daily intercourse 
with him at Barbizon, and whose description of his life 
and surroundings is of a far less gloomy character. It 
is necessary to read what they have written and to look 
facts fairly in the face if we wish to form a just con- 
clusion. That Millet was oppressed with the burden 
of a large family, that he was often heavily in debt 
and compelled to part with his pictures and drawings 
for sums far below their value, is undoubtedly true. 
The facts are pitiful enough in themselves. But when 
Sensier represents him as harassed by perpetual " in- 
quietude and mortal anxieties," that left him no peace 
day or night, and describes his correspondence " as a 
monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily inventory of his 
tortures," it is impossible not to feel that he makes use 
of exaggerated expressions. 

Sensier, it must be remembered, was Millet's con- 
fidential agent in all business matters. The painter 
trusted him implicitly and placed the most absolute 
confidence in his friend's wisdom and knowledge of the 



148 



J. F. MILLET 



world. He employed him, as we have already seen, to 
order his materials, obtain commissions and receive pay- 
ments on his behalf. Whatever the difficulty, he does 
not hesitate to apply to him for help, whether he asks 
him to lend him 100 francs on the spot, or to send a 
bottle of medicine for his sick child by the next post. 
In later years, when Sensier had become an official of 
high position, Millet often applied to him on behalf of 
needy and suffering cases which had come to his know- 
ledge with the same perfect confidence. And Sensier, 
who had considerable private means and became an 
extensive purchaser of land at Barbizon as early as 
1852, frequently supplied him with temporary advances ot 
ready money, and, according to his own account, exerted 
himself strenuously on his friend's behalf. He tells us 
how he tramped the streets of Paris, offering his pictures 
for sale to dealers and amateurs, how he knocked at 
the doors of artists' studios and entreated them to buy 
the works of their illustrious comrade. His own belief 
in Millet's greatness never failed. Sooner or later, he 
was persuaded, the day of triumph would come, and he 
would be owned as a painter of the highest rank. But 
it was not easy to make others share his certainty. 
Some laughed, others called him a fool for his pains, a 
few bought the pictures or drawings for a trifling sum. 
Sometimes even these buyers would repent when the 
bargain was concluded, and return the work in question. 
In this way Sensier acquired a large number of Millet's 
works, which increased in value to an enormous extent 
during the next twenty years, and were ultimately sold 
in years to come, greatly to the advantage of their owner 
and his heirs. Under these circumstances, Millet's cor- 
respondence with Sensier naturally turns largely on 
business matters, and his financial difficulties always 
occupy a prominent place. But a recent writer, Mr. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



149 



T. H. Bartlett, who has had access to the correspon- 
dence, consisting in all of 600 letters, of which only 
100 are given in Sensier's Life, informs us that it also 
deals largely with professional interests, with Sensier's 
private affairs and a variety of other subjects. And 
one especial characteristic of Millet's letters, he remarks, 
is the large amount of details which the writer gives 
concerning his own family and that of Sensier. They 
show all the charm of the man's character, the sweet- 
ness and sympathy of his nature, his goodness and un- 
selfishness. Sensier himself does ample justice to Millet's 
noble character, to his touching resignation and simple 
faith in God. 

" I was attached to Millet," he writes, " as to an elder brother, 
who revealed the true beauties and charms of life to me. In him I 
saw a wise man whose character never altered, whose welcome was 
always full of kindness, and who taught me by his example to do 
without the superfluities of life, and led me to higher and better 
things." 



Finally it must always be remembered, in justice to 
Sensier, that he himself died before he had finished his 
Life of Millet, and left it to be completed by another pen. 
If he had lived, he might, on further consideration, have 
doubted the fairness of publishing many of these private 
letters during the lifetime of Millet's widow and children. 
Their publication, only six years after the painter's death, 
naturally gave his family pain, and Madame Millet com- 
plained with good reason that the picture had been painted 
in colours of too gloomy a hue, and that Sensier had 
failed to do justice to the brightness and serenity of her 
husband's temper, and had, in many respects, given a 
false impression of his life and character. Millet had, 
there can be no doubt, a hard battle to fight, and an 
uphill road to climb, and he died before his time, worn 



150 



J. F. MILLET 



out by the long struggle. But in his darkest hours he 
had two sources of consolation which never failed him — 
on the one hand his love for his wife and children, on the 
other, his supreme devotion to his art. With these to 
cheer him in the battle of life a man can never be called 
miserable. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



151 



VI 



1855-1856 

THE year 1856 is described by Sensier as the beginning 
of a long period of famine and suffering in the 
life of Millet. But just at this moment, during this u in- 
fernal year " in fact, we have an account of the painter 
in his home life, from another source, which helps us to 
modify the biographer's statement. Early in October, 
!855, a young American artist, Edward Wheelwright, 
came to Barbizon with a letter of introduction to Millet 
from his intimate friend, William Hunt, who had lately 
left France to settle at Boston. Fired by Hunt's en- 
thusiasm for the talent and character of the Barbizon 
master, the young man lost no time in presenting himself 
at Millet's door. In a letter written at the time, he thus 
describes this first interview: 

" Presently I found myself in Millet's atelier and in the presence 
of the great man. I had been told that he was a rough peasant ; 
but peasant or no peasant, Millet is one of Nature's noblemen. 
He is a large, strong, deep-chested man, with a full black beard, 
a grey eye that looks through and through you, and so far as 
I could judge during the moment when he took off a broad- 
brimmed, steeple-crowned straw hat, a high rather than a broad 
forehead. He made me think at once of Michelangelo and of 
Richard Cceur de Lion." 



After a few minutes' conversation about Hunt the 
young American explained the object of his visit and 



152 



J. F. MILLET 



asked Millet if he would give him a course ol lessons, 
or at least let him have the benefit of his advice. Millet 
examined some drawings which he had brought with 
him and criticised them kindly but freely ; but some other 
visitors having been introduced, Wheelwright took his 
leave, saying that he would return the next day. When 
he came back Millet told him at once that he could not 
take him as a pupil, but that if he liked to engage a room 
in a neighbouring house, and bring him his drawings, he 
would give him the best advice that he had to offer. At 
the same time he told the young artist frankly that if he 
wished to study the human figure, he had much better 
go to Paris and study in some atelier where he would 
find models. Wheelwright left the studio under the im- 
pression that Millet was by no means inclined to give 
him any instruction, and went back to Paris that evening, 
much disappointed. But the strong personality of the 
painter, " his handsome, intelligent, honest face, the grand 
dignity of his manner, the serious charm of his conver- 
sation," had impressed him deeply, and a week or two 
afterwards he returned to Barbizon and paid Millet a 
second visit. This time the painter agreed to superin- 
tend his studies, but observed he should have to charge 
a very high price, as his time was precious, and named 
what seemed to him the formidable sum of ioo francs 
a month. To his surprise Wheelwright agreed readily, 
and went off at once with Madame Millet's maid-servant 
in search of a lodging. Within a week he had taken a 
room in a neighbouring cottage and was settled in his 
new quarters, where he remained from the 29th of October, 
1855, to the 23rd of June, 1856. During that time he lived 
in daily intercourse with Millet, and has left us not only 
a minute account of his home and way of living, but 
many interesting fragments of his conversations. He tells 
us how he found the painter digging in his garden, and 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



15. 



how in their walks together on the plain, he would often 
take the spade out of the astonished labourer's hands and 
show him how well he could handle it. Millet, he says, 
was never tired of watching the peasants at work on the 
plain — the women pulling potatoes and carrying them 
home in sacks on those autumn days, the men ploughing 
and carting manure, or hoeing and digging the ground. 
The rise and fall of the line, the regular movement of 
the spade had for him a curious fascination. He liked 
to watch the unconscious grace of the digger's action, 
and would make his companion notice how a good labourer 
never wastes his strength, and expends neither more nor 
less, but exactly the degree of force that is required for 
his object. And he would point out the digger's habit, 
acquired by long practice, of placing himself in the posi- 
tion best suited for the effort of lifting the spade and 
turning the loosened earth. " Force, well-ordered, well- 
directed, calm without bustle or excitement, not to be 
diverted from its aim, that was what Millet loved, and 
that," adds his American friend, " was what he was." 
The pathetic significance of the digger's toil also im- 
pressed him deeply. Of all forms of labour none, he often 
said, spoke more plainly of the poverty, the hardship, the 
monotony of the peasant's lot. " In the sweat of thy brow 
thou shalt eat bread." The subject was much in his mind 
just then, for it was during that winter that he designed 
the picture of Les Becheurs which struck Wheelwright so 
forcibly in its unfinished state. Nowhere is the contrast 
between youth and age more finely expressed. Two stal- 
wart labourers are seen digging in the field, with their 
hats and blouses lying on the ground at their feet. One 
of the two is young and vigorous, and his spade turns the 
clods with ease. For him the task is light, and the labour 
pleasant. The other, on the contrary, is growing old, 
and we see by his bent form and slow movement that 



'54 



J. F. MILLET 



the work requires his whole strength, that his limbs will' 
soon be stiff and his body weary. 

But there was one calling above all others which had 
for Millet a peculiar charm. On the plain of Barbizon 
there were shepherds watching their flocks at all seasons 
of the year. That gaunt, solitary figure, wrapt in his long 
cloak, and leaning on his staff, with no companion but 
his faithful dog, might be seen from early dawn till night- 
fall. All through the summer months he slept under the 
stars, in his wooden hut at one corner of the fold. Even 
on winter days, as soon as the snow and frost were gone, 
he was seen again, anxiously searching for the first traces 
of vegetation ; and the returning spring brought round 
his busiest days, when the ewes and lambs required his 
most watchful care. 

The loneliness of the shepherd's life, the long hours 
which he spends under the sky, his silent musings with 
Nature, his knowledge of the stars, and of the seasons, 
stirred Millet's imagination deeply. He was never tired 
of watching these solitary forms as they moved across 
the plain. There was about them a touch of mystic poetry 
that recalled familiar lines of Virgil or verses of David's 
Psalms. 

Several of his finest shepherd-pictures were begun in 
the course of 1856. It was then that he painted the 
shepherd resting in the shade of a clump of trees, on a 
rocky mound, while his sheep nibble the short grass around, 
and out in the blazing sunshine the labourers are at work 
on the plain. In one picture we see him leading his flock, 
in search of new pastures, in the dewy freshness of early 
morning ; in another he wends his way slowly homewards, 
when the red sun is sinking to its rest, followed by the 
long, straggling line of sheep and the dog that brings 
up the rear. Again the painter shows us that familiar 
form, standing under the bare trees at the chill close of 



1 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



155 



the brief November day, with his eye fixed on the distant 
horizon, waiting for the dtoile du berger to rise in the far-off 
west. But the finest perhaps of all the pictures which 
belong to this year is the night-scene, known as the Pare 
aux Moutons. There, under the dim light of the moon, 
half-veiled in mist and cloud, we see the shepherd and 
his dog gathering the flock together to pen them in safety 
for the night. We see the silly sheep, crowding in to- 
gether and crushing their sides against the wattled hurdles 
of the fold, and we seem to hear the cry of the night-owl 
and the croaking of the frogs in the wide, mysterious 
darkness of the great plain beyond. Nowhere is the pro- 
found stillness of night, the glory and vastness of the 
star-lit heavens more deeply felt than in this wonderful 
little picture. 

" Ah ! " he said to Sensier, "if I could only make 
others feel as I do all the terrors and splendours of the 
night ; if I could but make them hear the songs, the 
silences and murmurings of the air: il faut percevoir 
Vinfini — one must feel the presence of the infinite. Is 
it not terrible to think of these worlds of light which 
rise and set, age after age, in the same unchanging 
order? They shine upon us all alike, on the joys and 
the sorrows of men, and when this world of ours melts 
away, the life-giving sun will remain a pitiless witness 
of the universal desolation." 

This consciousness of the awful and stupendous powers 
of Nature constantly haunted Millet's thoughts. One 
day when he was told of a frightful murder which had 
lately taken place in the forest, he exclaimed: "Horror 
of horrors ! and yet the sun did not stand still in 
heaven ! Truly those orbs are implacable ! " 

And this ever-present sense of greatness and vastness 
of Nature became an abiding principle of his art. 

"Every landscape," he said to one of his American 



156 



J. F. MILLET 



friends, " should contain a suggestion of distance. We 
should feel the possibility of the landscape being in- 
definitely extended on either side. Every glimpse of the 
horizon, however narrow, should form part of the great 
circle that bounds our vision. The observance of this 
rule helps wonderfully to give a picture the true, open- 
air look." 

Not in vain was he born within sound of the ever- 
lasting sea, within sight of those vast spaces which 
filled his soul with immortal longing. The infinite is 
always present in his pictures. He breaks up the forest 
shades to let in a glimpse of blue heaven above, and 
reminds us by the slender thread of up-curling smoke, 
or the flight of wild birds across the sky, of the far- 
spreading horizons which lie beyond our gaze and the 
boundless issues of human life. This largeness and 
majesty of conception was eminently characteristic both 
of the artist and of the man. 

The young student from the New World was struck 
by the grandeur and natural dignity of the painter who 
had been described to him as a rough peasant. And 
this first impression only deepened, the more he saw 
of the man in his home life. 

" There was much in Millet himself," he writes, " sug- 
gestive of the Bible and of the patriarchs, especially to 
those who saw him in the privacy of his home." 

One day, when Wheelwright had been at Barbizon for 
about a month, Millet asked him to come and spend the 
evening at his fireside, saying that he would be always 
welcome, whenever he felt inclined to drop in. The 
young American gladly accepted this invitation, and 
found the painter and his family in the low room, which 
had formerly served as his studio, sitting round a 
large table, with a wood fire burning on the open hearth. 
Millet was reading, his wife was sewing, the eldest 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



157 



daughter Marie and the maid-servant were knitting 
at her side, and Pierre sat opposite, copying a draw- 
ing. Before long, at a sign from Madame Millet, Marie 
slipped out of the room, and a few minutes afterwards, 
the visitor heard a slight rustle, and turning his head 
caught sight of a slim figure in a white nightgown 
disappearing under the counterpane of the big bed in 
the corner of the room, where two other children were 
already asleep. 

"This," remarks Wheelwright, in a letter to his friends at home, 
" will give you some idea of the primitive manners of the house- 
hold. I could not help fancying myself, not in a house in France, 
and in the nineteenth century, but far away in some remote age and 
country — under the tent, perhaps, of Abraham the shepherd. Millet 
himself, in fact, looks as though he had been taken bodily out 
of the Bible." 

He goes on to describe Madame Millet as: 

" . . . a farmer's-wife-sort of body, brisk and active, though 
no longer young, an excellent woman, and a good wife to Millet, 
whom she seemed to regard as a being of a superior order. 
. . . I shall never forget the tenderness of the tone with which 
I have heard him address her as ma vieille, nor the affectionate 
gesture with which I have seen him lay his hand upon her 
shoulder." 



At this first visit, Madame Millet took little part in 
the conversation, but her shyness soon wore off, and she 
talked freely to her husband's friend of her children and 
family affairs. Her age at this time could not have 
been more than eight-and-twenty, but like most women 
of her race, she had aged early, and her face bore 
traces of the hardships that she had undergone in the 
first years of her married life. Her quiet cheerfulness 
and serenity attracted the notice of all the visitors who 
at different times found their way to Barbizon, while 



i5» 



J. F. MILLET 



her ready sympathy and unfailing courage were her 
husband's best support in his frequent fits of depression. 
Sensier tells us that Millet very rarely opened his 
heart to others, or shared his deepest feelings with any 
one but his wife. And Wheelwright was also struck by 
his reserve. He was always courteous and kind, there 
was a genial warmth in his welcome, and in his fare- 
well, but his kindliness was held in check by the 
native dignity and seriousness of his manners. 

" Millet," the American artist wrote home, when he had spent 
several months in the painter's company, "is not one of those with 
whom it is easy to make acquaintance. He does not let himself 
out to the first comer. Although the most kind-hearted of men, 
and very gay at times, there is always a sort of grand dignity about 
him which checks familiarity." 



The gaiety of which Wheelwright speaks, and which in 
spite of all that Sensier tells us does not seem to have 
forsaken him during this gloomy year, was no doubt 
chiefly apparent at the evening gatherings which took 
place under his roof. There was nothing Millet liked 
better than to see his children and his friends assembled 
round his table. Rousseau and Barye were often there; 
Diaz, Sensier, and Campredon, Corot, and the great 
caricature painter, Daumier, came from Paris on occa- 
sional visits, and were warmly welcomed. The gathering 
was often a large one, and it was always pleasant. 
Millet himself was the life of the party, and even 
Sensier allows that on these occasions his cheerfulness 
was really delightful, and his conversation full of wit 
and brilliancy. While others talked, he would draw 
all manner of shapes and figures with the point of his 
knife on the table-cloth, and if any problem of drawing 
or perspective turned up in the course of conversation, 
he would take up a pencil and attempt to solve it then 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



159 



and there. On Saturday evenings these gatherings gene- 
rally took place at Rousseau's house, and here during 
the summer months the little company of friends would 
sit up discussing questions of art and literature until the 
sun rose over the cliffs of the Bas-Breau. But if Diaz 
was present, with his wooden leg and his impatient temper, 
he would often interrupt the discussion, and striking the 
stump of his leg with a loud thump upon the table, cry 
out : " By all the gods, hold your peace ! Is it not 
enough to paint pictures all day, without chattering 
about them all night!" If his warning did not meet 
with instant attention, he would leave the table and 
march out in a furious rage, amid the shouts and 
laughter of his comrades. Sometimes the guests played 
at chess, or fox-and-geese. "Millet," writes Rousseau, 
on one occasion, " has been playing at fox-and-geese 
with me at Ziem's house. His vanity has become 
insupportable, since this game has revealed the strength 
of an intelligence which painting had failed to discover ! 
Now he thinks he has nothing more to learn ! I mean 
to play him a trick, and introduce whist next time as 
a new game ! " 

But even in his home life, alone with his wife and 
children, Millet was often charmingly gay. When he 
was in good health, and things went well with him, 
he would return from Paris with his pockets full of 
toys and cakes for the little ones, and look with delight 
at the joyous faces and dancing eyes which met him at 
the door. Even when his errand had proved a fruitless 
one, and his pockets were empty, he would say cheer- 
fully in reply to the eager questioners who attacked 
him on the doorstep : " Ah ! my poor darlings, I was too 
late this time. The shops were all shut ! " And then 
he would take them on his knees, and tell them old 
Norman fairy tales, and sing the songs his mother and 



i6o 



J. F. MILLET 



grandmother had taught him at Gruchy, till the children 
forgot their disappointment, and went to bed happy. 

As Wheelwright soon discovered, the painter had no 
lack of humour. He was fond of telling him good 
stories, and repeated with much amusement a bon mot 
of Barye's, who had described the new buildings of the 
Louvre as " high-class confectionery," in allusion to their 
elaborate ornament and sugar-like whiteness. By Millet's 
advice the American student had provided himself with 
two pair of wooden sabots to protect his feet from the 
damp of the cottage floors. One of these was a pair 
of common sabots as worn by the peasants of Barbizon; 
the other was of lighter and more elegant make, and 
was intended, as he explained, for use upon high days 
and holidays. " Ah ! I understand," said the painter; 
" those are company sabots!" The idea tickled his 
fancy, and he was never tired of teasing his friend 
about those genteel sabots. 

Millet paid frequent visits to Wheelwright's lodgings, 
where he inspected his studies, and gave him the benefit 
of his criticisms and corrections. He often took the 
pencil from his hand, and showed him what he meant 
when he said that every touch should have a distinct 
purpose and meaning. His idea of drawing was that 
it consisted not so much in handling the pencil as in 
seeing rightly. " To see," he often said, " is to draw. 
Seeing is to drawing what reading is to writing. You 
may teach a boy to make all the letters of the alphabet 
with perfect accuracy, but unless he learns to read he 
will never be able to write." Again, he constantly 
insisted on more deliberation and greater pains. " An 
artist should be sure that he knows what he means to 
do, before he draws a line, or makes a mark on his 
paper. You should, above all, feel what you are going 
to draw." He was never tired of insisting on the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



161 



necessity of bringing out the vital and essential quali- 
ties of things. Nothing, he often said, must be intro- 
duced but that which is fundamental. Every accessory, 
however ornamental, which is not there for a purpose, 
and does not complete the meaning of the picture, 
must be rigidly excluded. For the whole is greater 
than the parts; the man is more important than his 
clothes; the woman is of more value than the jewels 
she wears. You must concentrate all your powers of 
attention on your principal subject, decide once for all 
where the chief interest of the picture lies, and make 
all other parts resolutely subordinate to that central 
and essential fact. 

These were the principles upon which Millet invariably 
insisted in the informal lessons which he gave his pupil, 
and in the talks which they had during their long walks 
on the plain and in the forest. Fortunately the American 
artist recorded many of the great master's utterances in 
the letters which he wrote home at the time, and after- 
wards published in an article in the Atlantic Monthly 
(September, 1876). 



"Millet," he writes, "thinks photography a good thing, and 
would himself like to have a machine and take views. He would, 
however, never paint from them, but would only use them as we 
use notes. Photographs, he says, are like casts from nature, which 
can never be equal to a good statue. No mechanism can be 
a substitute for genius. But photography used as we use casts 
may be of the greatest service. Once, a propos of a photographic 
likeness we had been looking at, he said that this art would never 
reach perfection till the process could be performed instantaneously, 
and without the knowledge of the sitter. Only in that way, if at 
all, could a natural and life-like portrait be obtained. He had 
himself, he said, at one time painted a good many portraits at 
Havre. His subjects were chiefly sea-captains, who invariably 
insisted on being painted with a spy-glass under one arm. This 
sort of thing, he added, was very distasteful to him. . . . 

M 



l62 



J. F. MILLET 



" When there is progress, Millet says, there is hope. Besides, 
anybody can learn to draw, just as anybody can learn to write ; 
but it is only genius that can enable a man to be a painter. He 
assures me that the old proverb, ' Make haste slowly,' holds good 
in painting as in other things, and that those who have been cele- 
brated as rapid painters have always been very slow workers. He 
instanced particularly Horace Vernet, whose rapidity of execution 
has passed into a proverb, and yet, as he had been told by one of 
Vernet's pupils, any one to see him at work would suppose him 
to be the slowest of mortals. He drew his figure with charcoal 
upon the canvas in the most painstaking manner, every touch 
was made slowly and deliberately ; but as he took time to think, 
or in other words, looked before he leapt, he was as sure as he 
was slow, and lost but little time in replacing. Millet says of 
himself, that although he knows the human figure by heart, so as 
to be able to draw it perfectly without a model, he is still obliged 
to proceed very slowly and cautiously. The great thing is to bring 
your mind to your work. Rembrandt is reported to have said : 
'When I stop thinking, I stop working.' 

"Nothing is more dangerous for a painter than what is com- 
monly understood by facility ; that is, a happy, or rather unhappy 
knack of hitting off a tolerable likeness of the thing to be repre- 
sented, missing for the most part its true character and sentiment, 
and producing something that has about the same resemblance 
to a drawing that a caricature has to a portrait. . . . 

" One of the most essential parts of the education of an artist is 
the training of the memory. Here again, the analogy with the art 
of writing holds good. In order to learn to write, the child must 
not only learn to imitate the form of the letter a, as he sees it 
in his copy-book ; he must remember that form, so as to be able 
to make it without a copy. Millet says of himself, that, not hav- 
ing naturally a strong memory, he has by practice so educated it 
that, with regard to his art at least, he has no difficulty in re- 
membering anything he may desire to retain, and he thinks that 
any one may do the same. But in order to remember, we must 
first understand, unless we are content to be mere parrots, and 
in order to remember what we see, we must first learn to see it 
understandingly. In order to see it is not sufficient to open the 
eyes. There must be an act of the mind. . . . 

" A propos of a sketch I had made of a corner of my room, Millet 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



163 



remarked upon the individuality that every object in nature pos- 
sesses, even the most insignificant, and discoursed for some time 
upon the character of my pencils and other implements lying on 
my table. Even my stove and a pile of books on the window- 
seat had for him un grand caractere, and as Millet is not one of 
those who despise the ancients, he, as he does constantly, cited 
one of them in support of his views, instancing the portrait of 
the mathematician, Nicholas Kratzer, astronomer to Henry VIII. 
of England, by Holbein, in the Louvre, in which the mathematical 
instruments, he said, play an important part, and have a character 
of grandeur and solemnity which to him appears perfectly mar- 
vellous." 

The following paragraph contains some interesting notes 
of a conversation upon colour, which Wheelwright jotted 
down at the moment : 



"Saturday, April 5, 1856. — Treatises upon colour, and harmony 
of colour, may be interesting, and even useful, if written by one 
who knows his subject — par un des forts, the term which Millet 
habitually employed in speaking of the great masters — but if by 
one having no practical knowledge, worse than useless. Harmony 
of colour, like harmony in music, is a matter of instinct, or natural 
talent. Discords in colour will be at once detected by the eye 
as discords in music by the ear, if there be a natural aptitude 
in either case. No theory of colour will enable a man who has 
no eye for harmony of colour to dispose colours harmoniously, 
any more than any theory of music will enable one who has not 
a musical ear to distinguish between concords and discords in 
music. The great colourists — Titian and Giorgione — were very sim- 
ple in their choice of colours. Harmony of colour, in fact, consists 
more in a just balance of light and dark than in juxtaposition 
of certain colours. There must be perfect balance. The picture 
must be well composed. Pond'eration enfin. La fin du jour, c'est 
V'epreuve dun tableau." 

These last words were a favourite maxim with Millet, and 
one which he is never tired of repeating in different forms. 
The twilight hour, when there is not light enough to dis- 
tinguish details, is the time of day when you can best 



164 



J. F. MILLET 



judge of the effect of a picture as a whole, — can see in 
fact if it is a picture, or merely a piece of painting. His 
brother Pierre tells us that he was in the habit of looking 
at the sky and landscape through a little black glass which 
he kept in his pocket, and found of great use in the com- 
position of his pictures. And many years before, he had 
said in a letter to Sensier: 



" Half-light is necessary in order to sharpen my eyes and clear 
my thoughts — it has been my best teacher. If a sketch seen in 
the dim twilight at the end of the day have the requisite balance — 
■bonder ation—\\. is a picture; if not, no clever arrangement of colour, 
no skill in drawing or elaborate finish, can ever make it into a 
picture." 

These remarks, taken down on the spot in the painter's 
own words, are of the greatest possible value. They set 
forth in clear and concise language Millet's theories of 
art, and they do more to explain his own pictures and 
to make us realize the elements of his genius than whole 
chapters of criticism from the pen of other writers. But 
what struck his American friend, perhaps, more than any- 
thing else in these conversations, was the natural elo- 
quence of the man and his careful choice of words, quali- 
ties that seemed the more remarkable in one who had 
been born and bred a peasant. This had been already 
noticed by Sensier and by many others. M. Charles 
Bigot, a well-known critic and journalist, was surprised 
to find when he met Millet for the first time, on his re- 
turn from a journey to Italy, how well the peasant-painter 
talked of Michelangelo. He spoke of the great Floren- 
tine, who was only known to him by his Slaves and 
drawings in the Louvre, and prints from his works in 
Rome and Florence, with a vivacity and penetration, a 
force and originality of expression that amazed his listener. 
But Millet, as the American artist and the French writer 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



l6 5 



both found out, was a man of wide culture. He had 
trained his mind by the study of the classics of all ages, 
and had unconsciously formed his style upon the best 
models. Wheelwright soon discovered that he was a great 
reader, and often sat up till past midnight devouring some 
volume which he had picked up cheap on the Paris book- 
stalls. He knew Shakespeare and Milton as well as he 
did Virgil and the Bible; and surprised the Boston artist 
by his acquaintance with Emerson and Channing. Mil- 
ton's Paradise Lost, which he had read in Delille's trans- 
lation, impressed him greatly, and the famous passage at 
the beginning of the Fourth Book, "Now came still evening 
on, and twilight grey had in her sober livery all things 
clad," filled him with delight. The poet's description of 
natural objects struck him as marvellously accurate, and 
he quoted the lines on the nightingale as an instance of 
his close observation of Nature. In Delille's translation, 
the words " Silence was pleased," are rendered by the 
line: 

" II chante, Fair repond, et le silence ecoute." 

The idea struck him forcibly. 

"What a silence that must be!" he remarked. "A 
silence that hushes itself to listen, a silence more silent 
than silence itself!" That, he added, was the kind of 
stillness that he wished to express in his pictures. 

In Wheelwright's mind, the idea was always associated 
with a wonderful little picture which Millet painted at 
this time, and which he afterwards called La Veillee. No 
less than six different versions of the subject are in ex- 
istence, but this one is perhaps the most beautiful of all. 
A young mother is sitting at work in her cottage on a 
summer evening, rocking the cradle where her baby 
sleeps with her foot, while she plies her needle. The 
sun's rays stream in through the window behind, and 



1 66 



J. F. MILLET 



fall in a halo of light round the head of the slumbering 
child, while the rest of the picture lies in shadow. 

One Sunday afternoon, when Millet had gone to Paris, 
and Wheelwright was at work in his studio with Pierre, 
the house was invaded by Diaz, who had come over with 
a party of friends for the day. They were much dis- 
appointed to find " 1'ami Millet " absent, but consoled them- 
selves by asking Pierre to let them see his brother's latest 
work, declaring that this was a good opportunity, since 
if the painter were at home, he would assure them he had 
nothing to show them. Pierre entered a feeble protest 
at this invasion of the studio in his brother's absence ; 
but Diaz and his friends would take no refusal, and with 
much noise and mirth they pulled down the canvases on 
the shelves, and examined them all in turn. At last they 
brought out the picture of the mother rocking her sleeping 
child, and placed it upon the easel. The solemn beauty of 
the subject, the deep hush of stillness on the face of the 
sleeping babe, produced a marvellous effect on the most 
boisterous members of the party. Their noisy talk and 
laughter died away, and no one uttered a word, until 
Diaz said in a deeply-moved voice : " Eh bien ! ca c'est 
Biblique." Another work upon which Millet was engaged 
that spring-time was a figure of a young shepherdess, clad 
in the linen hood and white cloak of the Barbizon peasant- 
women, leaning against a rocky mound under a clump of 
trees with her knitting in her hands, while the sheep 
browse the grass at her feet, and the leaves overhead, 
and the peasants at work on the plain, alike tell of the 
return of spring. 

The American artist lost his heart to this young girl 
with the pensive face and dreamy eyes, which recalled 
the Maid of DomrCmy listening to the voices, and was 
so much charmed with the picture that he begged Millet 
to paint him a similar Shepherdess as a souvenir of Bar- 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



167 



bizon. The painter consented, and Wheelwright eventu- 
ally carried off the replica with him to America. Towards 
the end of June he returned home, and did not come 
back to France until fourteen years later ; he paid a flying 
visit to Paris just before the war of 1870, and brought 
his wife to Millet's house. Excepting for that one brief 
interview, he never saw the painter again, but he trea- 
sured up his memories of Barbizon with the greatest care, 
and the Recollections which he published after Millet's 
death are among the most precious records that are left 
us. 



1 68 



J. F. MILLET 



VII 



1854-1857 



THE state of contemporary art, and the neglect to 
which it has been condemned in modern times, were 
frequently discussed by the little group of artists who 
met at Barbizon. Millet himself held strong views on 
the subject, and grew eloquent over the causes which 
had led to the decay of art in the present age. 

" In our own days," he often said, " Art is nothing but 
an accessory, a pleasing amusement, while in the Middle 
Ages it was one of the pillars of society as well as its 
conscience and the expression of its religious sentiment. 
Things were very different in olden times. The Pharaohs 
did not allow the genius of old Egypt to die, and the 
Antonines encouraged art in so liberal a manner that it 
attained its highest development under their rule. Peri- 
cles chose Phidias to be the builder of the Parthenon, 
and even a conqueror such as Alexander respected the 
genius of Praxiteles. But what has the State done in 
our own days for the good of art ? What, again, have 
our great men of letters done to assist its progress? 
Less than nothing. I saw Lamartine pick out his 
favourite picture in the Salon of 1848. His choice was 
entirely swayed by political and literary predilections. 
A picture by Rembrandt, for instance, would never have 
been admitted into his house! Victor Hugo puts Louis 
Boulanger and Delacroix on the same level. Georges 
Sand has a woman's prudence, and contents herself with 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



169 



fine words and musical phrases. Alexandre Dumas re- 
cognises Delacroix's talent, but it is only because he 
illustrates Goethe and Shakespeare. I have never been 
able to find a single page in the writings of Balzac, of 
Eugene Sue, of Frederic Souli6, or Barbier, or Mery, 
which showed any true understanding of art." On the 
other hand, Proudhon, the Socialist writer, who looked 
with sympathy on Courbet, and published a treatise on 
the Principles of Art, seemed to Millet's eyes to be equally 
mistaken, since he had no real knowledge or love of art, 
but judged it solely from the point of view of the demo- 
cratic leader. One day, when Millet was at work finish- 
ing a picture in the studio of Diaz, Proudhon came in 
and talked eagerly of the misery of the poor, and of the 
general ignorance of art that prevailed in France. But 
he hardly glanced at the landscapes of Diaz around him, 
and Millet, after listening a few minutes, went back to 
his easel and continued his work in silence. 

"That man's doctrine," he said afterwards, "would 
lead to the tyranny of the few. What is to become of 
individual impressions if we are never even to think 
of the past ? May not a story of olden time stir our 
emotions? What would have become of Delacroix's 
pictures of The Bark of Dante, or The Crusaders of 
Constantinople, if he had been compelled to paint The 
Storming of the Trocadero, or The Opening of the As- 
sembly ? " 

He often said that he failed to grasp the meaning of 
Socialist doctrines, and that all revolutionary principles 
were utterly distasteful to his ideas. 

" My programme is work. That is the natural con- 
dition of humanity. ' In the sweat of thy brow thou 
shalt eat bread,' was written centuries ago. The destiny 
of man is immutable, and can never change. What 
each one of us has to do, is to seek progress in his pro- 



170 



J. F. MILLET 



fession, to try and improve daily in his trade, whatever 
that may be, and in this way to surpass his neighbour, 
both in the superiority of his talent, and in the conscien- 
tiousness of his work. That is the only path for me. 
All else is a dream or a lottery." 

Wheelwright points out the folly of the critics who 
persisted in classing Millet among the ranks of Socialist 
demagogues, and says that in all the conversations which 
he had with him, he never once touched upon political 
questions. His interest in the life and sorrows of the 
poor was the result of his own experience, but nothing 
was further from his thoughts than the idea of protest- 
ing against the unequal division of property. He never 
expressed the least envy of the powerful and wealthy. 
On the contrary, he was rather inclined to pity them, 
and when his American friend came back from Paris, 
full of the pomp and ceremony which had attended the 
Prince Imperial's christening, Millet's only comment 
was, " Poor little Prince ! " 

But his choice of peasant-subjects no doubt gave rise 
to the impression that he was actuated by political 
motives, and increased the hostile attitude of the fashion- 
able world in the days of the Second Empire. Many 
years passed by before this unfortunate impression was 
removed, and in the meantime the painter had to suffer. 
The Court and the public looked upon him as a dan- 
gerous character. The critics spoke of him as a painter 
who deliberately preferred ugliness, and had no sense 
of beauty. His admirers remained limited to a small 
circle of artists and men of taste, and his pictures would 
not sell. His friends tried to help him by organizing 
sales for his benefit, and Diaz, whose brain was fertile 
in expedients for money-making, and had no difficulty 
in selling his own works, was especially anxious to com- 
bine with him in a public exhibition and sale of pictures. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



171 



He had made a proposal to this effect early in 1854, and 
both Sensier and Campredon advocated the plan which 
he had suggested. But nothing would induce Millet to 
agree to this. In the first place, exhibitions and sales 
were alike odious in his eyes : he looked upon them as 
dealers' tricks, and always said that pictures ought to 
be bought by real lovers of art, and go straight from 
the artist's studio into their hands. And in the second 
place, he was perfectly well aware of the small favour 
in which his works were held by the public, and was 
convinced that it would be a fatal mistake to throw a 
large number of his pictures upon the market at once. 
Accordingly, he explained his reasons to Sensier, in a 
letter which shows a very practical turn of mind and 
keener eye for business than usual. 



"16 February, 1854. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" . . . Campredon had tranquillized me effectually, but 
your letter revives my anxiety for reasons which I will try and 
make you understand. I know very well that you are perplexed 
about Diaz's plan, and I see that it is difficult for you not to do 
what he asks. But how is it that Diaz, who can earn so much 
money, does not see that in obtaining the sum which he needs, 
he will expose me to run the risk of serious loss, and that, too, 
when I am just beginning to make a living ? For you will agree 
that this is not the moment for me to show myself in public 
sales, since my works have no value save in the eyes of their 
owners. Happily I have very few things in the hands of dealers, 
and I congratulate myself on this advantage. It seems to me a 
bad time to give them a chance of buying my things at a low 
price, if not for nothing ; or, at least, to provoke a comparison 
which cannot fail to be unfortunate for me, since my works have 
no importance, and do not in any way represent what I hope to 
accomplish in the future. It would be especially unfortunate to 
compare them with the works of Diaz, which, in the first place, 
are already valuable, and are certainly more important in every 
respect than mine. And even if my pictures should sell for a 



172 



J. F. MILLET 



good price, the exhibition must be disastrous for me. Reflect 
upon all this, and you will see that I am not so very much mis- 
taken. It seems hard to run the risk of failure for the sake of 
affording Diaz a pretence to get the money which he can earn 
so easily, at least much more easily than I can, and this, too, at 
a moment when my affairs are beginning to mend, and are likely 
to improve, if only my works are not made common until they 
have acquired a greater value from the increasing appreciation 
of their owners. I know that Diaz is a good fellow, but I doubt 
if he would consent, even in his present position, to do wha: he 
asks you to have me do. He asked me to tell him the price of 
two of my pictures, and I did not hesitate to tell him, in spite 
of the difficulties which this may cause. There is a great differ- 
ence between a man in his position, with reputation and future 
assured, and one in mine, who must needs risk all. I doubt 
very much if any one in my situation would agree to his pro- 
posal. I cannot even conceive what his purpose is. He seems 
to make light of the injury that may happen to me as long as he 
can succeed. I wonder, now that I know his intentions, what 
he meant by the expression which he used to Campredon, when he 
said that the sale was to be, above all, in Millet's interests. Cam- 
predon has been indiscreet without knowing it, or intending to be 
so. He told me very plainly, among other things, that Diaz said 
to him, 'You ought to have a sale, and put a picture that I am 
working at into it, and make the sale, above all, in Millet's in- 
terest.' I very much hope that I am mistaken in my views re- 
garding this sale, but I fear I am not." 



Diaz and Campredon were, no doubt, sincere in the 
wish to help their friend, but Millet's opinion of the 
small estimation in which his works were held proved 
only too correct. The proposed sale did not take place 
in 1854 i but in the autumn of 1856 Campredon died, 
and eighteen of Millet's works, which he had bought at 
different times, were included in the sale of his collec- 
tion. On this occasion his friends did their utmost to 
push Millet's works, and Rousseau especially exerted 
himself to raise their value. He advertised the sale in 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



173 



all directions, and was an active bidder himself, ill as 
he could afford to spare the money. But in spite of all 
his efforts, Millet's works sold for next to nothing. An 
oil painting of Bacchantes and Satyrs went for 265 
francs; another, The Return from the Forest, for 122 
francs ! One drawing, a very fine moon-rise, was bought 
by a collector for the respectable sum of 200 francs ; the 
rest went at ridiculously low prices. Rousseau bought 
three of the most important, A Farm-boy, A Ship in 
Harbour and A Peasant- Woman in the Forest, for 120 
francs, or about thirty shillings apiece. The noble 
crayon-portraits of Victor Dupre and Vechte, A Study of 
a Nude Woman, and about ten others, were sold for a 
few francs. This unfortunate sale had the further effect 
of damaging Millet's reputation, and of diminishing the 
demand for his drawings. A dealer who had lately 
ordered two refused to give the modest price which the 
painter asked, and another constant patron declined to 
take them, preferring to reserve himself for the Campre- 
don sale. As ill-luck would have it, Millet was at this 
moment in great need of money, and saw with terror 
the approach of the end of the year, when his creditors 
were always busy. Accordingly he wrote sadly enough 
to Sensier : 



"Paris, Wednesday, 3 December, 1856. 
" My dear Sensier,— 

" I have brought two drawings here which were intended for 
Beugniet. They are of some importance, especially one of the 
two, but unfortunately I had not fixed the price with him before- 
hand. I asked him for 60 francs apiece, which he refused to give 
me. I, on my part, could not take less. So I brought away my 
drawings, which Leon Legoux showed to the merchant, M. Atger, 
who would gladly have bought them, if he had not been reserving 
himself for the Campredon sale, so that these drawings, which I 
counted upon, and expected to bring me in some money, remain 



i74 



J. F. MILLET 



on my hands. I had positively promised to have this money ready 
for the grocer, who persecutes me to pay his bill every time he 
calls, and here I am with no money, and in a worse plight than 
ever. I know not where to turn for help to meet my liabilities as 
well as to keep us alive, since I shall return to Barbizon with only 
ten francs in my pocket. I am exceedingly vexed at having to 
tell you this, knowing that you are short of money yourself just 
now, but if by any chance you could lend me ioo or 150 francs, 
you see how grateful I should be. I am really in a great difficulty, 
and cannot conceive what I ought to do next. Will better days 
ever dawn for me ? I dare not flatter myself with that hope. On 
the contrary, I am conscious of fits of despondency, while at the 
same time I feel that I cannot, and ought not, to give way, since 
it would be only letting myself sink into a lower and more hopeless 
condition. The drawings I mention are at Rousseau's house, in 
Paris, in a portfolio on his couch. 

" J. F. Millet." 

Sensier did what he could at the moment. He got up 
a lottery of 100 francs for some of Millet's drawings, and 
sent the money within the next few days to Barbizon. 
On Sunday, the 7th of December, Millet wrote a grateful 
letter, thanking him for his prompt assistance. 

" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have received the hundred francs, and thank you ten times 
over. Rousseau is writing to you about the Campredon sale, to 
mention certain drawings of mine for which he means to bid. I 
know not which they are, for he says with reason ' it will not do to 
bid for all, but for two or three only, if the sale appears slack.' He 
must explain what he means himself. ... If I have not actually got 
a fit of the spleen, which you advise me not to take in as a perma- 
nent lodger, I am certainly conscious of profound dejection. Not 
that I feel any rage against any one, for I have not been more 
hardly treated than many others. I am only afraid of getting tired 
out. This sort of thing has lasted nearly twenty years ! But if my 
lot has been a hard one, at least it has not been the fault of my 
friends, and this is a great consolation. Good-bye, my dear Sensier, 
I do not know which day I shall come to Paris. 

"J. F. Millet." 







J 






HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



175 



A few days later the Campredon sale took place. Its 
effect, as already described, was disastrous as far as 
Millet's prospects were concerned, and the year closed 
gloomily for him. His wife had just given birth to 
another little girl, and he himself suffered from a suc- 
cession of violent headaches during that winter. No 
wonder that his letters breathe a sorrowful strain, and 
that a kind of "settled weariness," as he says, seemed to 
take possession of his soul. Yet his creative powers did 
not languish for a moment, and during that melancholy 
winter he was engaged on one of the noblest and most 
famous of his pictures — Les Glanenses. The first allusion 
we find to this great work occurs in a sorrowful letter 
to Rousseau. 

" How much trouble I give you, my poor Rousseau ! You are a 
living instance of the saying that 'kind hearts are condemned to 
become the victims of others.' All the same, I hope you will not 
think that I am not aware of the endless worry that I give you, but 
I cannot help imposing on your kindness. I seem to be under the 
spell of an enchantment. Bah ! I will stop, for I neither can, nor 
dare, say what is in my mind on this subject. 

" I am working like a slave to get my picture of The Gleaners done 
in time. I really do not know what will be the result of all the 
trouble that I have taken. There are days when I feel as if this 
unhappy picture had no meaning. In any case, I mean to devote a 
quiet month's work to it. If only it does not turn out too dis- 
graceful ! . . . Headaches, big and little, have attacked me during 
the last month with such violence, that I have scarcely been able to 
work for a quarter of an hour at a time. I assure you that both 
physically and morally I am in a state of collapse. You are right : 
life is very sad. There are few cities of refuge ; and in the end you 
understand those who sighed after a. place of refreshment, of light and 
peace. And you understand, too, why Dante makes some of his 
personages say, in speaking of the days which they spent on earth, 
' The time of my debt.' Ah, well ! let us hold out as long as we 
can." 

When Millet wrote these words, he was in the act of 



176 



J. F. MILLET 



finishing one of the noblest works of modern art — that 
great picture of Les Glanenses, which now, by the 
generous bequest of Madame Pommery, belongs to the 
Louvre. The fact deserves to be remembered for the 
consolation of toiling and suffering genius. But to the 
end of time it will be the same, and the greatest work 
will be produced under the same burden of sorrow, and 
at the same heavy cost. 

The motive of the picture had long been in Millet's 
thoughts. A pen-and-ink sketch of a woman stooping 
to pick up an ear of wheat is to be found in one of his 
early note-books. In a second study, we have two women 
gleaning corn in a harvest-field : one walks erect, carry- 
ing a sheaf in her arms, the other bends down over her 
work, and in the background are the loaded waggon and 
horses, and the farmer and his men stacking the sheaves. 
A third drawing gives us the three figures of the picture: 
two women are seen, each holding a sheaf in one hand, 
and stooping to pick up an ear of corn with the other, 
while a third and older woman bends slowly, and with 
evident difficulty, to imitate their action. This third 
figure afterwards underwent many alterations, and was 
the subject of a variety of different studies. But in the 
end the right attitude was discovered, the exact gesture 
caught, and the painter's thought found perfect expression. 
In point of grandeur and completeness, Millet seldom 
excelled this picture. That solemn moment, the end of 
the harvest, has never been as finely represented. In the 
background we see the corn-field, with its groups of 
reapers and loaded waggons and horses bringing the 
sheaves to the ricks, the farmer himself on horseback 
among his men, and the homestead among the trees. The 
transparent atmosphere of the summer day, the burning 
rays of the sun, and the short stalks of yellow stubble are 
all exactly rendered. And in the foreground are the three 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



177 



gleaners — heroic types of labour fulfilling its task until 
" the night cometh when no man can work." 

Les Glaneuses was first exhibited in the Salon of 1857, 
and was at once recognised by the majority of artists 
and connoisseurs as the finest thing that Millet had yet 
done. The beauty of the landscape, the rich tones of the 
colouring, and the pathetic dignity of the figures, made 
a general and profound impression. Edmond About said 
its grandeur and serenity moved him as deeply as some 
great religious painting of old. But, on the other hand, 
it was fiercely attacked by another section of critics, who, 
with Saint- Victor at their head, scoffed at the " gigantic 
and pretentious ugliness of the gleaners," and called 
them the Parcas of Poverty. Some journalists saw in 
these faces the mute appeal of the wretched and miser- 
able ; others described the three poor women as dangerous 
beasts of prey whose angry gestures threatened the very 
existence of society. 

These hostile criticisms annoyed Millet, and hampered 
the sale of his works. But they did not make him alter 
his practice or swerve a step out of his path. 

" They may do their worst ! " he said to his friends. 
" I have ventured all on this one stake, and have risked 
my neck, and I do not mean to draw back now. I stand 
firm. They may call me a painter of ugliness, a detractor 
of my race, but let no one think they can force me to 
beautify peasant-types. I would rather say nothing than 
express myself feebly. Give me signboards to paint, 
yards of canvas, if you will, to cover by the piece like a 
house-painter, and let me work, if need be, as a mason, 
but at least let me think out my subjects in my own 
fashion, and finish the work that I have to do in 
peace." 

Sometimes Sensier would urge him to make his peasants 
more attractive, and remind him that even village^ 

N 



i;8 



J. F. MILLET 



maidens had pretty faces, and that some labourers were 
handsome fellows. 

" Yes, yes," Millet would reply, not without a touch of 
impatience, " that is all very fine, but you must remember 
beauty does not consist merely in the shape or colouring 
of a face. It lies in the general effect of the form, in 
suitable and appropriate action. Your pretty peasant- 
girls are not fit to pick up faggots, to glean under the 
August sun, or draw water from the well. When I paint 
a mother, I shall try and make her beautiful, simply by 
the look which she bends upon her child. Beauty is 
expression." 

After all this controversy, the Glanenses had some 
difficulty in finding a purchaser. But in the end, M. 
Binder, a wealthy merchant of l'lsle-Adam, to whom 
Millet had been introduced by his friend the painter, Jules 
Dupre, bought the picture for two thousand francs. It 
changed hands, as our readers will remember, in 1889, 
when it was bought for three hundred thousand francs by 
Madame Pommery, and eventually presented by her to 
the Louvre. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



179 



VIII 



1857-1859 

' I A HE year of the Glaneuses was also that of the 
*- Angelus. The first sketch of this renowned picture 
was seen by Sensier early in 1858, and we find from a 
letter of the artist's, dated February 6th, that negotiations 
respecting its sale had already passed between him and 
one of his great admirers, Feydeau, who bought a large 
number of his drawings about this time. 

" My dear Sensier, — 

" Rousseau, who came back yesterday, tells me you are better. 
I am also ill, and write to you from my bed. I have been suffering 
for several days from a sick headache and influenza, a combination 
which produces a beautiful result ! As usual I await the end of the 
month with fear, and shall be obliged if you will tell me what ar- 
rangement for the payment of the Angelus, of which I spoke, will be 
agreeable to Feydeau and yourself." 

The ringing of the Angelus bell at evenfall, when the 
peasants were still at work in the fields, had been one 
of Millet's earliest impressions. Even so he had seen 
his father standing with bared head and cap in his hand, 
even so had his pious mother bowed herself and folded 
her hands at the sound of the evening bell, and repeated 
the words of the angelic salutation : " Angelus Domini 
nuntiavit Marise : Ave Maria, gratia plena." 

It was the painter's aim to record that impression, to 
give the quiet peace of the evening hour, the glow of 
the sunset steeping the fields, the sound of the church 
bell borne upon the air, and the silent devotion of the 
peasants. 



i8o 



J. F. MILLET 



"The power of expression ought to be able to realize 
all that," he said, as he brooded over the thought in his 
lonely walks. Then one fortunate day a sudden inspira- 
tion seized him, and, taking up his crayons, he made 
the first sketch of the Angelus du Soir. The great picture 
is familiar to us all. Every one has seen, if not the 
famous original itself, at least some print or photograph 
of the subject. Nothing can be simpler than the com- 
position. There are no figures or houses in the back- 
ground, no varied landscape to arrest the eye. The whole 
interest of the picture is concentrated on the two figures, 
the young labourer with his thick shock of curly auburn 
locks, holding his felt hat in his hands and bowing his 
head reverently, and his peasant-wife, in white cap and 
long blue apron, and short petticoats and sabots, clasping 
her hands together with a look of mute, prayerful re- 
collection on her face. A fork is stuck in the ground at 
the man's side, and a basket of potatoes and wheelbarrow 
laden with sacks are lying at his wife's feet. They 
have worked hard all through the brief autumn day 
pulling potatoes, and now they pause as the sound of 
the Angelus tells them that the hour of rest is near. 
Above, the breaking clouds are touched with rosied light, 
and the rooks fly homeward through the evening sky. 
The rich sunset glow lights up the pink sleeve and folded 
hands of the peasant-girl, and falls on the bowed head of 
her companion. And far away behind them the great 
plain stretches in its solemn calm to the distant horizon 
where the little church of Chailly rises against the sky, 
and the bells are ringing the hour of prayer. 

When Sensier first saw the picture on Millet's easel, the 
painter turned to him and asked : " Well, what do you 
think of it ? " 

" Why, it is the Angelus ! " replied Sensier. 

" Yes, that is the subject," said Millet, with a satisfied 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



151 



air. "You can hear the bells? Ah, well!" he added 
presently. " I am content. You understand what I mean 
— that is all I want to know." 

Afterwards he said, " Mon ami, you must try and help 
me to sell this picture." 

He felt that his aim was accomplished, and that he 
had painted a great picture. But the world, which is 
generally slow to find out the merits of the best work, 
took many years to discover that Millet's Angelus was a 
masterpiece. The patron for whom the picture was 
originally destined, seems to have been disappointed with 
the picture when it was completed, and declined to buy 
it. The spring and summer passed away, Millet was ill 
and suffering, unable to work, and in sore need of money, 
and still the Angelus did not sell. In a letter of the 25th 
of September, 1859, Millet tells Sensier that he forgets 
the exact price agreed upon for the Angelus, and asks if 
it is to be sold for 2,000 francs, or 2,500 francs. In 
another letter, dated December 6th, he sends word to 
Arthur Stevens, the Belgian picture-dealer, and brother 
of the well-known artist, who lived in Paris, that he is 
going to bring the picture to Diaz's atelier in Paris, 
where he can see it whenever he likes. 



"Tuesday morning, December 6, 1859. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" As soon as you receive this little note, have the frame of the 
Angelus taken to Diaz's studio, as I shall bring the picture to Paris 
to-morrow. You will get this letter this morning. See that the 
frame is at Diaz's early morning. Go also to Diaz's early, in 
order that he may have time to send word to Stevens that I am 
coming with the Angelus, and that he can see it whenever he wishes. 
I shall leave here by the first coach to-morrow morning, and shall 
be in Paris about half-past ten or eleven o'clock. I count on find- 
ing the frame at Diaz's, so that I can fit the picture into it at once. 

"J. F. Millet." 



182 



J. F. MILLET 



Arthur Stevens had a keen eye for pictures, and a 
keener one still for his own interests. From the first he 
saw the originality of Millet's genius, and saw too how 
he could turn the painter's talents to his own advantage. 
The sight of the Angelus made a deep impression upon 
him. He came to see it again and again — as many as 
ten times. Sensier tells us the subject seemed to fasci- 
nate him. After two months spent in bargaining over 
the price, it was at length sold to Baron de Papeleu, a 
Belgian artist who often visited Barbizon, and who 
bought it for 2,500 francs. Soon afterwards it passed 
into the hands of the distinguished connoisseur, M. Van 
Praet, then Belgian minister at the Court of Napoleon 
III. The future history of the picture, its repeated sales, 
and the strange course of events which raised the price 
from this modest sum to the extraordinary figure of 
£32,000, belongs to a later day. 

This period of Millet's life was a very suffering one, 
and the year in which he painted the Angelus was among 
the darkest in his life. The letters to Sensier tell the 
same harrowing tale of ill-health and pressing anxieties. 
He was short of money as usual, and harassed by impatient 
creditors at every turn. Even when he sold his drawings, 
he was often kept waiting many months for the money 
which he needed so badly. 

On the 13th of January, 1858, he sent Sensier a draw- 
ing of an Ear of Wheat for a lady who had begged for 
a sketch from his pen, with the following note: 



"My dear Sensier, — 

" There is the Wheat Ear at last. Will that satisfy your 
friend ? Will you not come down here on Sunday and keep twelfth 
night with us ? We are keeping the feast rather late in the day 

on account of Madame Rousseau's illness. Ask D to have a 

frame ready by the end of the month for one of the pictures which 
he has ordered. Try and negotiate that business promptly and 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



183 



skilfully. I do not wish him to think that I am compelled to 
let him have my pictures. Try and guess what I mean if I do not 
express myself very clearly. I see with fear and trembling the 
approach of one of those terrible moments which you know so well. 
I might even say, 'The time is at hand.' 

"J. F. Millet." 

In April he writes more cheerfully. 

"Sunday morning, April, 1858. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I am very glad to hear that Rousseau has settled with 

Monsieur T . If only that drawing might produce a similar 

impression on Monsieur H ; but I must not reckon on that. 

The men who dare admire things in advance of the rest of the 
world are not common. 

"Do not imagine that I am not pleased with Corot's picture, 
La Prairie avec le Fosse. Rousseau and I, on the contrary, think 
that both his pictures should be studied together, each one giving 
a distinct impression of its own. You are quite right in your 
admiration of the one. What struck us particularly in the other 
is the effect which it produces of being the work of a man who 
is ignorant of the technical side of painting, and who works by 
the sheer force of great desire. The art of painting, in fact, has 
been acquired spontaneously. But both of the pictures are very 
fine. We must talk about them. Writing would be endless." 

In point of fact, although Corot and Millet were very- 
good friends, they were neither of them cordial admirers 
of the other's art. Millet ranked Rousseau's landscapes 
far higher than those of Corot, and Corot on his part 
owned that he could never understand Millet's work. 

" He has an excellent heart," he once said to Sensier 
in speaking of Millet, " but his pictures are altogether 
too new for me. When I look at them, I do not know 
where I am! I am too fond of the old. I see great 
knowledge, fine atmosphere, serious intention, but it 
frightens me! I like my own little music better; and to 
say the truth, I take a long time to understand any new 



1 84 



J. F. MILLET 



art. I have only lately learnt to appreciate Delacroix, 
whom I now recognise to be a great man." 

All the same when Millet died, Corot, in the kindness 
of his heart, sent his widow a gift of 15,000 francs, 
fearing that his friend's family might be in need of 
money. 

In April, 1858, Millet received a singular commission. 
Pope Pius IX. sent him an order to paint an Immaculate 
Conception for his private railway carriage. The request 
reached Millet through M. Trelat, the Papal engineer, 
who had been recommended to apply to him by Rousseau. 
On the 23rd of this month Millet wrote to Sensier : 

" I have at length heard from M. Trelat, who desires me to 
begin the Immaculate Conception, which must be finished by the 
25th of June. I shall have time to manage it, and am considering 
the subject. Rousseau writes that he and M. Trelat have had a 
good deal of conversation on the matter, but that he did not expect 
any lasting results to come out of their interview. The impressions 
which he (M. Trelat) receives are, it appears, seldom durable, for 
his nature is so elastic that the last person he has seen entirely 
effaces the recollection of the former one. . . . Au revoir, I 
hope ! 



"J. F. Millet." 



At the same time he wrote to Rousseau 



" Barbizon, Saturday morning, April 24. 
" My dear Rousseau, — 

" I have at length received an order from M. Trelat for the 
much-discussed picture of the Immaculate Conception. A few days 
ago I sent him a small sketch to give him a general idea of the 
composition. 

"The weather is very fine, but it is a pity the ground is so 
dry. When I cross the plain, I see the trees of your garden all 
white with blossom over the top of the wall. I do not say this 
to rouse your envy, but they are certainly a lovely sight, and make 
one say, ' How pleasant it must be in there ! ' Madame Rousseau 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 1 85 

will be jealous when she sees my garden ! Est-il beau ? Est-il 
beau ? 

"J. F. Millet." 

The Pope's picture was finished by the end of June 
and duly despatched to Rome. But it was never heard 
of again, and Millet and his friends had a shrewd suspicion 
that this virgin was of too modern a style to meet with 
the Holy Father's approval. Certainly this Conception 
was very far removed from the orthodox idea. His 
Madonna was a young peasant-girl with brown eyes and 
thick locks of curly hair falling on her forehead, clasp- 
ing her child tenderly to her heart, and looking up with 
awe and wonder in her gentle face. Her head was en- 
circled with a blaze of light, and at her feet the serpent 
lay dead on the globe of the world. When this com- 
mission was finished, Millet applied himself to execute 
the order which had been given him, according to Sen- 
sier, six years before by the Director of Fine Arts. After 
repeated delays and hindrances he began the picture, and 
wrote to Sensier as follows on the 2nd of August, 1858: 

"The Minister's picture is begun, and in case I can finish it 
as promptly as I wish, I send the measurements for the frame 
for you to forward to the proper quarter — o'"73| inches by o m Q2| 
inches. Adrien Laveille came yesterday to ask for some drawings 
which he could engrave. He is very solemn, and declares this 
is not to be talked about, but wishes it to appear as if it were a 
spontaneous production. Have you had any plates made of 
Olivier de Serres ? and will the portrait answer ? I should like 
to see a proof. 

"J. F. Millet." 

This was a lithograph portrait of the seventeenth-cen- 
tury agriculturist, Olivier de Serres, a favourite writer of 
Millet's early years, which he had lately executed for a 
volume brought out by Sensier himself, under the pseudo- 



1 86 



J. F. MILLET 



nym of Reisnes. Impressions of the plate are now very- 
rare, if they have not disappeared altogether. 

A few days later, he sent Sensier a drawing of the 
picture which he intended to paint for the State, with the 
following note: 

" I send you, my dear Sensier, a drawing which I should like the 
Director of Fine Arts, or his Secretary, to see. The subject is, a 
woman feeding her cow and knitting as she walks. Tell me what 
they say of it at the Beaux Arts, although I cannot think an old 
stocking in holes can be called a very democratic subject ! But we 
shall see ! It is impossible to say what ideas people may get into 
their heads. So I shall await your answer before I go on with 
the picture." 

The Minister's reply was satisfactory, but Millet's 
work was interrupted by one of his terrible headaches, 
and on the 9th of August he wrote in a desponding tone 
to Sensier : 

"The moment has come when I must cry out like Panurge in 
the tempest : ' Help ! help ! I am drowning ! ' with this important 
difference — that we drown on dry land. ... In fact, I have 
reached the end of my tether. Good-bye, come ! 

"J. F. Millet." 

A fortnight later he wrote again in the same strain : 

" Headaches, and nothing but headaches ! Tell me how my 
request for an advance has been received by the Minister, for I 
am forced like the Psalmist to look unde veniet auxilium mihi. . . . 
I have read Fanny, alas ! alas ! 

"J. F. Millet." 



"P.S. — I should have a weight on my conscience if I stood in 
the way of Delatre's happiness. If he really only wants the few 
sketches on old sheets of which he spoke, let him have them and 
do what he likes with them. I have begun to work again. I am 
going to begin a picture of Death and the Woodcutter." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



.87 



November, Millet declared, was always the blackest 
month in the year. His father had died in November, 
and his worst troubles, he often said, all happened in that 
month. In 1858, he suffered from a persistent series of 
headaches, against which he struggled in vain. Again 
and again he tried to work at the Minister's picture, but 
his efforts were useless, and several weeks passed before 
he was able to take up his brush. 

" My head is absolutely empty, my memory fails me to such a 
point that I forget what I am going to say, before I have had 
time to write it down." 



These frequent headaches were in reality the heaviest 
trial of his life, interrupting his work, and often giving him 
a perfect agony of pain for days at a time. He would often 
make desperate efforts to go on with his picture, which 
had to be ready by a certain date, especially if, as usually 
happened, he was in need of money, and the dreaded end 
of the month were approaching. But the more he strug- 
gled, the more acute the pain became, until at length he 
was forced to take to his bed. At the end of two or three 
days the attack passed off, and he was generally able to 
resume his work. But sometimes the mere effort of trying 
to paint would bring back the pain with fresh violence. 
Had it not been for this cruel affliction, says his brother 
Pierre, he would have been able to produce at least double 
the work which he actually accomplished. These head- 
aches, besides wasting a large amount of precious time, 
were also a constant source of expense. He consulted one 
doctor after another, and took a great quantity of medicine 
which, according to Pierre, never did him the least good. 
The only thing which ever gave him relief was a cup of 
strong black coffee, and this, strange to say, all the doctors 
agreed in forbidding him to drink. But in spite of their 
prohibition, he returned to it when every other remedy 



J. F. MILLET 



failed. Often these headaches came on very suddenly ; 
sometimes they attacked him on his visits to Paris, and he 
was obliged to go to bed on the spot, and remain there 
for a whole day in spite of his anxiety to return home. 
For, as Pierre remarks, these visits were usually under- 
taken at the end of the month, when he went to Paris to 
receive the payments that were due to him, and he pre- 
pared to meet the Chailly tradesmen when they presented 
their bills. The friends who saw him overnight and 
heard him talking with animation of a thousand different 
subjects, little dreamt that perhaps the next morning would 
find him utterly prostrate, and unable to raise his head 
from the pillow. 

"Ah, Pierre!" he would sometimes exclaim, "if I had 
never left home and country life, I should not have had 
to endure these terrible headaches." 

There can be no doubt that these constantly-recurring 
attacks were one great cause of the fits of depression from 
which he suffered, and help to explain the desponding tone 
of his letters. Sometimes his melancholy, Sensier tells us, 
increased to such a pitch that it drove him to the verge of 
self-destruction. Once, when thoughts of this kind op- 
pressed him, he drew a sketch of an unhappy artist lying 
dead at the foot of his easel. But if the idea of such a 
crime ever actually came into his mind, the thought ol 
his wife and children would have been enough to make 
him pause. " Suicide," he said one day, "is a cowardly 
act. Think of the wife and children ! What an inherit- 
ance of woe for them!" And he added quickly, "Come, 
let us go out and see the sunset; that will do me good! " 

These evening walks were his great refreshment. In 
summer he spent the whole day in his studio till supper- 
time, and afterwards set out for a walk with his brother, 
or Rousseau. He liked to watch the lovely effects ol 
evening upon the plain, especially when during harvest- 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



189 



time the peasants were at work till dark, binding the 
sheaves and loading the waggons. 

" Look at the action of those men lifting the sheaves on 
their pitchforks," he would exclaim. " It is wonderful how 
grand those figures appear, standing out against the even- 
ing sky. Are they not like giants in the gathering dark- 
ness?" Or else: "See those figures moving in the shade 
yonder, creeping or walking along ! Surely they must be 
the spirits of the plain ! We know they are only poor 
human creatures —a woman bending down under her load 
of hay, or dragging herself along exhausted by the weight 
of her faggots. But far off they are superb ! Look how 
they balance their load on their shoulders in the twilight. 
It is beautiful — mysterious ! " 

So he loved to linger there, watching the changing 
effects of light, long after the sun had sunk below the 
horizon, and the gloom of night had settled on the plain. 
The sense of mystery and loneliness, the profound still- 
ness, broken only by the croaking of frogs, or the cry 
of a night-bird, the dim forms moving across the plain, 
all impressed him in a strange manner. In the same 
way, the weird shapes of the giant oaks and beeches of 
the forest, with their hollow trunks and spreading boughs, 
struck his imagination. Seen in the fading light, they 
seemed to him ghostly presences from another world, the 
spirits of primeval dwellers who haunted the caves and 
rocks in remote ages. As night fell on the scene, old 
legends would come back to his memory. " Do you not 
hear the witches keeping their Sabbath down there in the 
Bas Breau?" he whispered to his companions. "I seem 
to catch the cry of strangled children and the madman's 
laugh. And yet we know that it is only the cawing of 
the rooks, or the screech of the owls. But terror and 
mystery descend upon us when night, the Great Un- 
known, follows the day.'' And growing eloquent in the 



190 



J. F. MILLET 



darkness, he would recall the origin of those old tales 
and dwell on the wonderful power of Nature and her 
strong hold upon the imagination. 

" If I had to paint the forest," he said one day, " I 
would not try to make people think of emeralds or 
topazes or any other precious gems, but simply to realize 
the power which those bright leaves and dark shadows 
have to rejoice the heart or to move the soul of man. 
Only look at those huge masses of rock, tossed to and 
fro by the fury of the elements. They bear witness to 
some pre-historic deluge, or ancient reign of Chaos, grind- 
ing whole generations of man in its jaws! How awful 
it must have been, when the great waters covered the 
earth, and as the scene is painted for us in those three 
words of the Bible : l The Spirit of God moved upon the 
face of the waters.' Poussin is the only artist who could 
have rendered that scene!" 

As a rule Millet seldom left his work before the even- 
ing meal at six o'clock. But sometimes on fine summer 
afternoons Rousseau would walk into the studio, and tell 
Millet that he had worked long enough and must come 
out with him at once. Then the two painters would set 
off on a long ramble through the forest. Together they 
climbed the rocky gorges of its wilder parts, and from 
the heights of Apremont or Bas Breau looked down on 
the changing colours of the plain. They saw the sun set 
behind the forest trees and through the long avenues 
which seemed to Millet like the aisles of some great 
cathedral. And they did not return to Barbizon till it 
was dark and the deer were to be seen starting up 
beside them in the heather and bracken of the thicket. 
Then Millet would go home with his head full of new 
impressions, and taking up the first sheet of paper he 
could find make rough sketches of the scenes and effects 
of light which lingered in his memory. Visitors who 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



IQI 



came to Barbizon often carried off these precious sheets 
to which he attached no importance and which are now 
of rare value. Several are still in the possession of his 
family. His son-in-law, M. Heymann, has some which 
are of especial interest, and contain the original studies 
for many well-known pictures. We recognise the chil- 
dren in the Nouveau-Ne, the group of labourers in the 
Moissonneurs, the young girl watching the flight of wild 
geese, and the dog and sheep as well as the lovely head 
of the peasant-maiden, in M. Chauchard's Bergere. 

A similar page of sketches is reproduced by Sensier in 
his book. A girl raking a heap of smoking weeds to- 
gether, a labourer leaning on his pitchfork, a young 
shepherdess sitting down with her staff at her side and 
her cheek resting upon her hand, the profile of a woman's 
face, a boat at full sail, a group of cottages in the forest, 
and a row of ducks waddling on land or swimming in 
a pond— such were the varied subjects which the painter 
jotted down in his spare moments. And in the upper 
part of the sheet, above the peasant-girl's head we read 
the famous words: "II faut pouvoir faire servir le 
trivial a l'expression du sublime. C'est la la vraie force." 
It was a favourite saying of his, and no better motto 
could be chosen to illustrate his life and work. 



192 



J. F. MILLET 



IX 



1859-1860 



' I "HE year 1859 found Millet in one of his most de- 



1 



pressed moods. He had suffered severely from head- 



aches during the last two months; his children had 
been ill, and his wife was again on the eve of her con- 
finement. But what saddened him more than all w r as 
that M. Latrdne, the friend of Rousseau's, who had 
bought four of his pictures five years before, now put 
them up to auction and sold them for very low prices. 
Millet felt this keenly. The world, it was plain, would 
never appreciate his work ; his best pictures were despised, 
and he and his family were rapidly going downhill. He 
wrote sorrowfully to Sensier : 



"Wednesday morning, January, 1859. 
" A terrible sick-headache has prevented me from writing to 
you before to tell you the sad state of my affairs. What a com- 
plete collapse this sale of Latrone's has been ! The future looks 
more and more hopeless. I feel this the more keenly because I 
do not see how I am ever to escape from the misery that holds 
me in its iron grip. I am constantly troubled with little debts in 
every direction. It is impossible for me to pay them ; it is frightful 
to be stripped naked before such people, not so much that it hurts 
my pride, as because we cannot obtain necessary supplies. We 
have wood for only two more days, and we do not know how to 
get any more. It will certainly not be given us on credit. My 
wife will be confined next month, and I shall not have a penny. 
It is not even certain that I can get together the three hundred 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



193 



francs which are needed to pay the bills which fall due at the 
end of the month. Enough of this, however. I intend to try 
and get M. Atger to advance something upon his drawings, al- 
though he will very probably object. I am sad and suffering. 
Forgive me for telling you all this. I do not pretend to be more 
unfortunate than many others, but each has his own burdens. I 
am very glad that Feydeau has bought my pictures, but Serville 
will soon have my Woman Putting Bread into the Oven to sell. 
What will Rousseau say to all this ? It will trouble him also and 
with good reason. If you can do anything to find new buyers who 
will give me an order at once, I shall be more grateful to you than 
ever. I shall not believe it until I see it ! I am working at the 
drawings. To-morrow or the day after I shall send you one for 
Alfred Feydeau. Please send me the money as soon as you have 
received it, for the children cannot be without a fire. So much 
the worse for the end of the month ! 

"J. F. Millet." 

On the 20th of March he was threatened with another 
visit from the bailiffs, and wrote to Sensier in abject terror. 
Happily affairs were soon settled this time, and Millet's 
spirits revived. Sensier obtained an advance of money on 
some drawings which had been ordered, and Millet wrote 
back joyfully, quoting the words of an old Norman 
song: 

" T es un homme salutaire, 
Pour les amis qu'en a besoin. 

"Your proposal gave me the greatest possible pleasure and has 
filled me with fresh courage for work. I will not fail to profit by it 
to the best of my power. As soon as I have sent off my pictures, 
I will hasten to deliver the drawings. . . . After all, quarrelling 
is not a pleasant thing ! . . ." 



The two pictures which Millet sent to the Salon of 
1859 were the Woman Leading her Cow to Feed and 
Death and the Woodcutter. The former, as the cata- 
logue states, was already the property of the nation, and 





194 J* F - MILLET 

at the close of the Exhibition was presented by the 
Emperor to the Museum of the town of Bourg-en- 
Bresse. It is a good and characteristic, but not especi- 
ally interesting, example of Millet's peasant-pictures. 
His other Salon picture was a far more ambitious work. 
The subject, taken from La Fontaine's well-known fable, 
had long occupied the painter's thoughts. Three years 
before he had laid his hand by chance upon a volume 
of Georges Sand's Mare au Diable, that belonged to his 
American friend Wheelwright, and had read the book 
with great interest. He was especially struck with 
the first chapter, which describes an engraving by 
Holbein, representing an aged peasant ploughing, while 
Death stalks beside the frightened horses, and urges 
them on with his whip. The words of an old French 
quatrain were inscribed below : 

" A la sueur de ton visage 
Tu gagnerais ta pauvre vie, 
Apres long travail et usaige 
Voicy la mort qui te couvie." 

Millet told Wheelwright at the time that he had long 
been thinking of painting a picture on Fontaine's well- 
known fable of " La Mort et le Bucheron." This 
intention he had now carried out after long deliberation, 
with great care and pains. The picture which he pro- 
duced is, there can be no doubt, one of his most re- 
markable works. He has painted the weary woodcutter 
sinking exhausted under his load at the foot of a mound 
by the roadside in the depths of the forest, and repre- 
sented the skeleton Death, a veiled form bearing a 
scythe and a winged hour-glass, laying her bony hand 
on his arm. The look of terror on the tired labourer's 
face, at the sight of the white and silent figure which 
has risen in answer to his prayer, is rendered with 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



195 



dramatic force, and the unusual degree of imaginative 
power displayed by the artist on this occasion made a 
deep impression upon his friends. To their astonish- 
ment, this picture, upon which Millet had spent infinite 
pains, was rejected by the jury of the Salon, while the 
Woman with her Cow, a smaller and distinctly less 
striking work, was accepted. The decision excited 
universal surprise, and two leading critics, Alexandre 
Dumas and Paul Mantz, took up their pens boldly in 
defence of the rejected picture. The Gazette des Beaux 
Arts published an engraving of La Mort et le 
Bticheron, with an article by M. Mantz, doing full 
justice to its merits, and ending with these noteworthy 
words : 

"Clever men may smile, Academies may be mistaken, the 
public may pass by without so much as a glance or attempt to 
understand the picture. This mockery, these mistakes, cannot 
alter the facts of the case, and the time will soon come, if indeed 
it has not already arrived, when M. Millet will be hailed by the 
whole world as a great master." 

But at the time Millet himself felt the disappoint- 
ment keenly. The decision of the jury was, in his 
opinion, the outcome of a deliberate effort to crush his 
art. Vidi pravaricantes were the words in which he 
told Sensier what had happened. Afterwards he said: 
" They think they can force me to yield, and drive me 
into their drawing-room art. But they are wrong ! A 
peasant I was born, and a peasant I will die ! I am 
determined to say what I feel, and to paint things as I 
see them. I mean to hold my own, without retreating 
so much as a sabot's length! If necessary, I too will 
show that I can fight for my honour." And then, as if 
half ashamed of his warmth, he added with a smile: 
" Come, Sensier, we must save the honour of the 
house! " 



196 



J. F. MILLET 



At the same time he begged his defenders to be 
moderate in their language, and above all not to make 
political capital out of this attack upon him, but to 
confine their remarks purely to artistic questions. There 
was nothing which annoyed him so much as to hear 
his name bandied about by political agitators, and to 
find his art dragged into the arena of party strife. But 
the worry and anxiety of mind which he suffered in 
connection with this unfortunate event affected his 
health. He fell seriously ill, and being unable to come 
to Paris himself, addressed the following letter to his 
brother : 

"Sunday morning. 
" My dear Pierre, — 

"A severe and entirely unusual illness has attacked me. 
Besides a painful headache, I am suffering from sore throat and 
fever. The doctor found it necessary to bleed me, so that 
although I am out of bed, I feel terribly shaken. All this has 
interrupted my work, and prevented me from coming to Paris 
to receive the money due to me at the end of the month. I 
have not strength for the journey. This then is what I want 
you to do for me. Go to Rousseau's on Tuesday, and you will 
receive a sum of money — 450 francs, I think. Bring it here on 
the same day. Be at his house before noon, in order to see 
him at dinner-time. If you cannot do this, let me know at 
once, and I will find some other way of getting the money, as 
Wednesday is the last day of the month. You understand clearly 
how important it is that you should be here by Tuesday evening, 
with the 450 francs, which you will get from Rousseau. Tell 
him that I have not strength to come to Paris myself, but hope 
to be there early next month. Good-bye. Except myself, 

every one is well here. 

" Your brother, 

" Francois." 

This attack of illness, unfortunately, affected his eyes, 
and proved a serious hindrance to his work. But in 
spite of all his own troubles, Millet showed no lack of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



197 



sympathy with others, and the letters which he addressed 
to Sensier at this time abound in kindly inquiries after 
his wife's health, and in allusions to the land which his 
friend had lately bought at Barbizon. If Sensier acted 
as Millet's agent in Paris, the painter on his part helped 
him materially in his negotiations with the inhabitants 
of the village. By degrees Sensier had acquired a con- 
siderable amount of property at Barbizon, and early in 
1859 he bought Millet's cottage, and the neighbouring 
house formerly occupied by Jacque, from his landlord, 
Br6zar. The terms of the purchase and the management 
of the estate seem to have been chiefly arranged by 
Millet, whose letters give many particulars of his deal- 
ings with the neighbouring peasants on his friend's 
behalf. All these details were suppressed by Sensier in 
his Life of Millet, but Mr. Bartlett has lately published 
several of these letters in full. They are of interest, 
not only because they show us that Millet had leisure 
to think of other matters besides his own troubles, but 
that where his friend's affairs were concerned, he could 
be more practical and business-like than in the manage- 
ment of his own. The actual purchase of land and 
improvement of property, the planting of trees and 
vegetables, were clearly far more suited to his capacities 
than his usual task of bargaining with dealers or col- 
lectors over the price of his pictures. 

On the 14th of February, 1859, ne suggests that 
Madame Sensier, who had lately given birth to a son, 
should come and occupy Jacque' s old house, to enjoy the 
benefit of country air, and makes the following proposals 
for her comfort: 



"My dear Sensier, — 

"I have received the 100 francs which you send from 
Laveille, and will tell you when to send me the other twenty. 
This is what my wife begs me to say. As country air would do 



198 



J. F. MILLET 



Madame Sensier good, and she is not occupied with important 
affairs in Paris, why should she not come here with you as soon 
as she can bear the journey ? We will arrange any of the rooms 
which she may wish to have. The one at the end of the house 
will perhaps be the best, as it has a fireplace. We will buy a 
sack of the same kind of coal that you used to burn with the 
wood, so that the fire will keep in and look more cheerful, and 
the room shall be furnished with your things. The walls must 
be hung with all kinds of draperies, and my large piece of 
tapestry shall go behind the bed, etc., etc. Madame Sensier can lead 
a life full of beautiful comfort ! Think of this seriously. I do 
not think it is at all a bad idea, and it is quite practicable. As 
you wish Ernest to grow up healthy, it is necessary that his mother 
should have as much country air as possible to make her strong. 
This is the conclusion to which we have come. The drawing I 
am making will be whiter than ermine. As I write, Marie and 
Louise are teasing me with questions as to what I am saying 
to Madame Sensier. ' Tell her to come at once, without delay ! ' 
and in the meantime they kiss her with all their hearts. We 
wish you all good health. 

"J. F. Millet." 

Again, on the 2nd of April, after the rejection of his 
picture of Death and the Woodcutter by the Salon, and 
the acceptance of his Woman with the Cow, he writes : 



" My dear Sensier, — 

" Leave your bed at Doyen's Inn, Melun, and the Barbizon 
coach will bring it here. As the season is well advanced, your 
potatoes shall be planted as soon as the ground is ready. If we 
were to wait to dig the ground more, it would be very late to 
plant them, as the weeds must be given time to rot after being 
dug up. The latter plan would have been the best if the work 
could have been done sooner. The piece you wish to have 
planted is the one where Brezar's apple-tree stands, is it not? 
and the one which Antoine bought lately. We will buy potatoes 
for both of us, and plant them at the same time. 

" I will make a picture for Etienne, and am going to do some 
drawings, too, as they seem to be my only resource at present. 
I will do them as well as I can, and take them as far as possible 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



199 



from family life; but as you know, a little calm is necessary to 
enable me to reflect on new ideas when they first come into my 
head. The new thought must be allowed time to concentrate 
itself in the brain, in order that only its essential part may be 
expressed. 

"Since my Woman with the Cow is, after all, accepted, can 
anything be done to prevent it from being hung out of sight ? 
Who has the task of hanging the pictures? Is it the jury? or 
another committee? If the Inspectors of Fine Arts have any- 
thing to do with it, would it be possible to get a more or less 
good place through their influence ? If this could be done, I 
should like to have it hung on the line and in one of the less 
dark corners. But if this is a difficult or impossible thing, it 
must be left to the grace of God. With you, I am much dis- 
tressed about Madame Rousseau's health. All her strength 
seems to have left her. It is as cold as winter, and freezes in 
the night. The ice was very thick yesterday morning, and the 
surface of the ground is as hard as a crust. Some of your trees 
are in blossom — poor things ! " 

Next we have a short letter about the engraving ot 
his rejected picture, Death and the Woodcutter: 



" Barbizon, 3 April, 1859. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I do not see any objection to the reproduction of my 
picture, if only it is tolerably well done. I think that Hedouin 
will be able to do it better than most people. I think I had 
better come to Paris, as soon as I hear that my picture can be 
taken away from the Exhibition, and help Hedouin, as I have 
said before. I ask nothing better than to give publicity to this 
refusal, as long as this is decently done. Before I give Hedouin 
a positive reply, tell me what do you think of it. Tell me, 
please, what you think of the proposal which has been made to 
me, and of the manner in which I have replied. What impres- 
sion does all this make upon you? Tell me at once, and if 
necessary, directly my picture is at liberty, I will come to Paris 
and help Hedouin as much as I can. I write this in haste for 
this letter to reach you to-night. . . . 

"J. F. Millet." 



200 



J. F. MILLET 



The next letter was written when he was still suffer- 
ing from the effects of his illness, and was consequently 
in a very depressed state. 

"Friday, 27 May, 1859. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

"Although my eyes are still in a deplorable condition, I am 
going to try and set to work to-day, in order to paint, as best 
I can, the little picture of which I spoke the other day. I know 
not if I shall be able to stand work, but as it is the only thing 
that I can accomplish before the end of the month, I beg you 
to see M. Moreaux (I believe that is his name), the dealer in old 
pictures, and ask him to see the gentleman whom he mentioned 
to you, and make an appointment with him. If you knew how 
my sight troubles me ! Oh ! how weary I am ! I am not going 
to bore you with ten thousand lamentations, but yet my poor 
head has to hold all too many. Let us have patience, if possible. 
Try and come yourself. It is a selfish request on my part, but 
I make it all the same. Write to me — it does not matter what ! 
When will He come who can say unto me, as He did to the 
cripple of the Gospel : ' Arise and walk ! ' 

"J. F. Millet. 

P.S. — " I must tell you that the pastel detained till now by L 



has been redeemed by Marolle, who places it at my disposal. 
At first, I refused to take it back, but in the end it seemed 
ungracious not to consent, so I told him that I would fetch it 
the next time that I come to Paris. It is the pastel of which 
you have heard Diaz speak — The Riding Lesson. Mention this 
to him, in case he may find me a purchaser. It is of the same 
size as my forty canvases. The subject is three life-size children 
at play. I painted it eighteen years ago. It is already very 
ancient history, but you will see that it is not bad. Yes, it is 
Marolle who has redeemed my pastel." 



This is the only mention we find of Marolle in Millet's 
letters, but it shows that the old friend of his struggling 
Paris days had not forgotten him. The next letter is 
dated 25th September, 1859, and contains an allusion to 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



20I 



the price of the Angelus; which, however, did not find 
a purchaser for several months to come : 

" My dear Sensier, — 

" Your letter arrived just after mine was sent to the post. 
The thing to do with the money is to send some very quickly, 
but how can you send 250 francs ? I told M. Gimsberger that 
the price of the Angelus was 2,000 francs, or 2,500, I forget 
exactly which, but certainly not less than 2,000 ; the Shepherd, 
3,000 ; the little picture for Alfred Feydeau, Haymakers Resting, 
1,200 francs. Yours, The Woman Rocking her Child, 1,500. 
There ! If only my drawings would sell ! 

" It would be a good thing, a very good thing to have Jacque's 
studio, but what are his proposals? Does he allow time for 
payment ? That is a question of great importance. 

" M. Laure came in to say good-day, and I rose to receive him. 
Charles (the painter's youngest son, a boy of two years old), 
taking advantage of my absence, undertook to finish my letter, 
as you see below ! 

" Is it necessary to reply to Jacque at once, or can you wait 
until Sunday, so that we may talk it over together? Perhaps 
the fact of his selling is a proof that he cannot wait for pay- 
ment, although this is merely a gratuitous supposition on my part. 
Coffin (the village carpenter) asks me for a definite decision 
about the floor of the new room, whether it is to be of wood 
or tiles. I told him to make it of wood, and that will cost 
sixteen francs more. Nothing new since morning. We shall 
meet on Saturday." 



Now that Sensier had become Millet's landlord, he 
agreed with the painter to make certain alterations and 
improvements in his house, which the increase of his 
family rendered absolutely necessary. His wife had 
given birth to a seventh child early in the year (1859), 
and two more were born within the next four years. 
Another bedroom was built in the place of the wood- 
hovel, a fireplace and chimney were added, and a door 
opened into the rest of the house. Jacque's studio, 



202 J. F. MILLET 

which Millet mentions in this letter, was a low building 
with a thatched roof, only divided by a narrow pathway 
from Millet's own atelier. Soon after this it was bought 
by Sensier, together with a piece of land at the back, 
and converted into a living room for Millet's family, 
and another small atelier was built above it for the 
painter's use. This new studio afforded Millet a conveni- 
ent retreat from the visitors who flocked to Barbizoi 
during the summer months, and often intruded on his 
privacy to a disagreeable extent, watching him at his 
work from the street, and even pushing their heads 
through the window of his atelier. A winding stone 
staircase led up to it from the garden, between a ta'.l 
elm and a fine old apple-tree with twisted stem and 
spreading boughs which was Millet's particular deligh:, 
and the windows commanded wide views of the forest 
and plain. 

"The view from the upper studio will be glorious," he wro:e 
to Sensier, when the plan was first proposed, in September, 1855. 
" I am longing to be there already, for it will be of the greatest 
use to me. Rousseau has started for Besancon this morning, 
and I am a prey to the usual headaches." 

Another letter regarding the work which had been 
done for Sensier belongs to this autumn, and is among 
those published by Mr. Bartlett. 

"Thursday morning. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were most religiously 
consecrated to curing myself of a bad headache, and this is why 
I have not answered your letter sooner, although I went yesterday 
evening to see Pere Ribouillard, whom I found seated in the 
corner of his fireplace, devouring a very large plate of soup. I 
mention this last fact because it was really a very fantastic picture. 
The room was dark and the candle was not lighted. As I have 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



203 



just said, Pere Ribouillard sat in the corner of the fireplace eating, 
while Eugenie Belon was in the opposite corner, looking like a 
gnome, very busily engaged in eating soup out of an old kettle, and 
so intent on the task, that she never even turned her head as I came 
in. You can imagine what ornaments to the fireplace Pere Ribouil- 
lard and Eugenie Belon were ! Though their faces were only 
dimly lighted by the little blaze on the hearth, you could easily 
see their general form. Mere Ribouillard, that old layer-out of 
dead bodies, sat between them. I asked Ribouillard what he 
wanted of you, and his wife replied that they heartily wished 
you would pay them a little money. Their bill was 15 francs 
for clearing the wood, and 17! sous for half a day's work. But my 
wife thinks the wood-clearing ought not to be more than 11 
francs. We will pay them 9 francs for the present. If Ernest 
Feydeau can, let him hasten to complete his order. Since you 
left, heavy bills have fairly rained upon me, and all I could do 
was to give promises in payment. If Feydeau sells a picture 
to Stevens, let it be The Woman and Chickens. Our best wishes 
for the cure of your cold and for Madame Sensier's perfect 
health." 



The new atelier was built and various other improve- 
ments in the house and garden were effected in the course 
of the autumn. Sensier paid for the extension of the 
studio, but the expense of the other alterations was borne 
by Millet. At the same time the rent was raised to 360 
francs, and remained at this figure until after the 
painter's death, when Sensier raised Madame Millet's 
yearly payment to 400 francs. These fresh expenses 
naturally proved a serious drain on Millet's resources, 
and did not improve the state of his affairs. Neither the 
Angelus nor Death and the Woodcutter had yet found a 
purchaser, although the latter had been not only en- 
graved in the Gazette des Beaux Arts, but exhibited first 
in Charles Tillot's atelier, and afterwards at the shop of 
Martinet, a dealer on the Boulevard des Italiens. Millet 
was reduced as before to depend almost entirely upon 
the sale of his drawings, which did not always find 



204 



J. F. MILLET 






a purchaser, and when sold, were often not paid for 
immediately. 

Under these . ' -cumstances the end of the year found 
him once more in 'fficulties. This time Diaz came to 
his help with a loan of 600 francs, which he welcomed 
with effusion. 

" Long live Diaz and the sunshine ! " he wrote to Sensier, in 
January, i860. "This is a reprieve for me! I had left Paris with 
a heavy load of sorrow, and arrived here with my pockets as empty 
as I started. Now another bad place has been got over." 

On the 27 th of the same month he wrote again to say 
that he had almost finished a little picture of a Woman 
with a Rake, which he was painting for M. Doria. Ten 
days later he asked Sensier to order the frame, adding : 
"It is absolutely necessary that my picture should be 
delivered and paid for before the end of the month." 

And at the same time he asks if anything more has 
been heard of the purchaser of his La Mort et le 
Bucheron. 

Both this picture and the Angelus were sold during 
the next few weeks. The Angelus, as we have seen, 
went to Brussels, and the noble vision of Death and the 
Woodcutter, after passing through many different hands, 
and being for several years in the Laurent-Richard col- 
lection, was finally purchased for the Royal Picture 
Gallery at Copenhagen. 



^^■M 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



205 



X 

1860-1861 

DURING the last months of the year 1859, when 
Millet was in sore need of money and found it 
every day more difficult to sell his pictures, he entered 
into negotiations with the Belgian dealer, Arthur Stevens, 
and proposed to let him have all the paintings which he 
should execute during the next year, at a fixed rate of 
payment. The plan seems to have been originally sug- 
gested by Sensier, and was eagerly taken up by the painter 
in his anxiety to free himself from his present difficulties. 
Stevens, on his part, was one of the few dealers in Paris 
who recognised Millet's genius and the increasing value 
of his works. He had already bought several of Millet's 
smaller pictures, and in January, i860, he found pur- 
chasers for both the Angelus and Death and the Woodcutter. 
At the same time he began to buy up all the Millets 
that were in the market, and in this way managed to 
secure a large number of the painter's works at a very 
low price. He lent a willing ear to Sensier's proposals, 
and in order to strengthen his hands, entered into part- 
nership with a Paris picture-dealer, M. Blanc, the father- 
in-law of his brother, the artist Alfred Stevens. 

A contract was finally signed on the 14th of March, 
i860, by which Millet agreed to deliver all the pictures 
and drawings which he should execute during the next 
three years to the firm of Messrs. Stevens & Blanc, on 
condition of receiving 1,000 francs on the 25th of each 



206 



J. F. MILLET 



month. The price of each picture was to be placed to 
his credit as it was delivered, and at the end of this 
period the accounts between the contracting parties were 
to be balanced. Another condition was that Millet should 
not receive any payment until he had delivered six pic- 
tures amounting in value to 7,900 francs. A list of the 
partly-finished pictures which the painter had in his studio 
at the time when he signed the contract was added to 
the agreement. They were as many as twenty-five, and 
their value, when completed, was fixed at the sum of 
27,600 francs. Chief among these was the picture of 
Tobit and his Wife awaiting the Return of their Son, 
which was valued at 3,000 francs. The price of each 
drawing was fixed at £4; that of the pictures varied 
according to their size and importance, but none was to 
exceed the sum of £120. 

Millet's sensation, during the first few months after he 
had signed this contract, was one of intense relief. He 
had an assured income of £480 a year, and was free to 
paint whatever subjects he liked to choose, without the 
perpetual anxiety of finding a buyer for his pictures. 
Peace, as he told Sensier, had descended upon his life, 
and he was able to devote his whole powers to new con- 
ceptions, or to the completion of pictures which had been 
already begun. But this happy state of things did not 
last long. Before the year was over, he found himself 
involved in endless difficulties and misunderstandings, and 
he lived bitterly to regret the reckless way in which he 
had pledged his freedom. In the first place, Stevens and 
Blanc quarrelled in 186 1, and their disagreement, after 
causing endless delays in their payments, finally led to an 
interminable lawsuit. During this period, Millet could nei- 
ther sell pictures to any one else, nor get the money that 
was due to him from them. He had no means of subsist- 
ence, and in his distress he was forced to make drawings 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



207 



for a few friends, who promised to keep them in their own 
hands. This led to mutual recriminations and accusations 
of dishonesty, and became a source of continual annoy- 
ance to the sensitive painter. M. Blanc thought fit to 
pass severe criticisms upon his work, and to reproach 
Millet with thinking anything was good enough to 
send him. All this vexed Millet greatly, and interfered 
seriously with his powers of production. Then his usual 
headaches came to interrupt his work and retard the 
delivery of his pictures. At the expiration of three 
years, Millet owed M. Blanc the sum of 5,762 francs, 
which he gradually paid off in pictures, and the whole 
business was not finally concluded until the year 1866. 
The history of this contract is involved in obscurity; but 
difficult as it is to find out the truth, there appears little 
doubt that in this instance, as in too many others, he 
was duped by false friends, who imposed upon his credu- 
lity, and took advantage of his ignorance and unbusiness- 
like habits. Sensier, who acted as manager for Millet, 
mentions the contract, but does not reveal a word of these 
subsequent transactions. He himself seems to have pro- 
fited by the contract, and is said to have sold many of 
Millet's pictures that were in his own possession, to 
Stevens & Blanc, at a commission of 10 per cent. 

For the moment, however, Millet was saved from the 
persecution of small creditors, and spent the year i860 
in comparative peace. His letters were tranquil and his 
soul serene. "Were it not for this ch&re migraine" he 
writes, " I should be quite happy and satisfied." 

Among the most important works which were completed 
during i860 and 186 1 were the Tobit, the Shepherd in the 
Fold by Moonlight, Sheep-Shearing and the Woman Feed- 
ing her Children, La Femme aux Seaux and La Grande 
Tondeuse. The last-named picture was sent by Stevens 
to the Exhibition held at Brussels in the summer of i860, 



208 



J. F. MILLET 



where it attracted general attention. This life-sized 
peasant- woman, with her finely-modelled bust and arms, 
plying the shears deftly with one hand, while with the 
other she holds back the fleece, and the sheep lies passive 
on the barrel in the grasp of the old labourer, commanded 
general admiration. Her dignity of attitude, the truth 
and vigour of her action, and the serious expression of 
her face, impressed critics and public alike. This peasant- 
woman, in fact, recalled the great art of Greece, and was 
compared to Juno and to Pallas. 

"Every subject," wrote the critic Thore, "can be raised to the 
loftiest heights of poetic art by the power of the artist, if he 
brings an irresistible conviction to his work, and that universal 
element which connects his creations with the beautiful and true. 
This simple Tondeuse of M. Millet recalls the most admirable 
works of antiquity — the statues of Greece, and the paintings of 
Giorgione." 

The writer, whose article appeared in the Gazette des 
Beaux Arts for October, i860, had been one of Rousseau's 
most loyal defenders in the years when his pictures were 
banished from the Salon, and after his return from exile 
in i860 was a frequent visitor at Barbizon. He took 
long walks in the forest with both artists, and had inter- 
minable discussions over the theory and practice of art, 
in which critic and artists invariably disagreed ; Thore" 
maintaining that a picture depends upon its subject for 
greatness, Millet insisting that all subjects are great, if 
they are employed for a great end — the trivial, in fact, 
becomes sublime. The force and tenacity with which the 
two artists clung to their opinions impressed Thore pro- 
foundly. " Do you know," he said to Sensier, " those two 
men are terrible ! They are fierce and rugged as the 
rocks of the forest where they live. Their ideas are 
just as unchangeable, and nothing ever seems to modify 
them in the smallest degree." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



209 



"Thore came from Fontainebleau last night," wrote Millet on 
the nth of November, i860, "with two of his friends, and was 
here for about five minutes. He told me that his article had 
appeared in Charles Blanc's journal. Try and find out what he 
says, and tell me how Diaz and his family are after their great 
loss." 

This was the premature death of the painter's son, 

Emile Diaz, a youth of great promise, who died at five- 

and-twenty, to the great regret of his parents and 
friends. 

"Thore's article has arrived. I find it rather puzzling. Which 
is the best part of it? We must talk it over. Ask M. Niel if he 
knows an old book, published in French and called Tableau des 
Visions Chrestiennes ; at least that was the title at the top of the 
pages, for in the copy which I remember both the first and the 
last page had been torn out. This book contained a number of 
legends which used to frighten me terribly when I was a child. 
It contained the opinions of different casuists on a variety of sub- 
jects belonging to another world, etc., etc. Is it a book that 
could be easily found? What are the finest old illustrated Bibles 
that he knows, and what does he consider the best translation? 
I beg you to pay him my respects. 

"J. F. Millet." 



The love of the old picture-Bibles and legends of the 
Saints, with which he had been familiar in his childhood, 
was still strong in his breast, and a friend describes him 
as seated on a stool in his atelier buried in the study of 
an enormous Bible adorned with sixteenth-century plates. 
His own anxieties had only served to deepen his sym- 
pathy with the sorrows of others. He frequently asks 
after Diaz and his wife in their grief, and writes a letter 
full of affectionate concern to Sensier, on the death of 
his little boy: 



2IO 



J. F. MILLET 



" i July. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We are much grieved at your sad news, and pity Madame 
Sensier for all she has suffered. We hoped for better news, I must 
say, but at least let her try not to grieve too much. Your grief 
must also have been very bitter, and only people who have gone 
through the same trials can feel for you. Ah ! well, there is no 
consolation to be found in such moments. Where can one look for 
it ? We can only reflect once more on the sad condition of man 
that is born of woman, whose short existence is but a tissue of 
misery. Why did I not 'perish in my mother's womb?' was the 
cry of Job. My dear Sensier, I must stop, for I become more 
and more gloomy. But you cannot imagine how, each time I hear 
of some great sorrow, especially when it falls upon those whom I 
love best, all my own troubles are revived and seem to come back 
with fresh force. Happily, other things come to distract my 
mind, but I slip back very easily into the old current of thought. 
My wife implores Madame Sensier not to allow her grief to agitate 
her too much. We embrace you warmly, and wish with all our 
hearts that you may be able to get over your sorrows. Be of 
good courage ! 

"J. F. Millet." 



Another of Millet's Barbizon friends, the artist Laure, 
had a daughter named Jenny, whose delicate health 
gave her parents great anxiety. Her charming nature 
and the shadow of early death which hung over her 
fair young face, made her a great favourite with both 
Rousseau and Millet. She was a privileged guest in 
Millet's house, and often sat in his atelier watching him 
at work, and trying to draw in her turn. He treated 
her with the greatest kindness, and made a fine study 
of a girl leaning against a tree, holding a bucket of 
water which she has just drawn from the river, for her 
instruction. But poor Jenny fell a victim to consump- 
tion at an early age, and she died in February, 1861, 
to the grief of the whole colony at Barbizon. After 
her death Millet painted her portrait from memory and 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



21 I 



sent it to the heart-broken parents, who wept for the 
loss of their only child. 

Besides the Tondeuse de Mentions, which had already 
been exhibited at Brussels, and the picture of Tobit and 
his Wife, which was completed in i860, Millet painted a 
third subject — A Mother Feeding her Children — that win- 
ter. A woman is represented seated on the threshold 
of her door, feeding her three children with spoonfuls 
of soup from a bowl which she holds in her hand, like 
some hen feeding her chickens, while their father is seen 
digging in the garden behind. It was presented to the 
Museum of Lille, in the painter's lifetime, and is better 
known by its other name of La Becque"e. Millet al- 
ludes to this work in a letter of December the 4th, i860, 
in which he also mentions the distinguished artist Meryon, 
who had begged to see his etchings, and expressed a 
desire to buy some of them. 

" Since M. Meryon is really so amiable, let him choose any of 
the plates which he likes to have. My picture of Children Eating 
is finished. I am waiting till it is sent for. I must find out if it 
is possible to bring it under the notice of the Director of Fine Arts 
(M. de Nieuwerkerke, whose influence with the Emperor was great 
at this time). Perhaps he will think the subject very dangerous and 
revolutionary ! " 

The three pictures were all exhibited in the Salon ot 
186 1, but Millet heard, much to his vexation, that the 
members of the jury had been divided as to their merits, 
and that several leading artists had voted against their 
admission. Accordingly he sends Sensier a long letter 
on the subject, written in his usual over-sensitive strain. 



"Tuesday morning, April 22, 1861. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Thank you for the information which you give me as to my 
Salon pictures and the opinion of the judges, in the letter which 



212 



J. F. MILLET 



Tillot has brought me. I must say I should have greatly preferred 
their rejection to an admission which will give these creatures a 
chance of hanging my pictures in the most unfavourable manner, 
as is clearly their intention. It is no use discussing the reasons 
which they advance as their motives, but none the less I feel that 
a new wrong has been done me, and I am forced to endure this 
as well as the fine chance their writers will now have to attack me 
in print, since, no doubt, the chief journals are under their control. 
What is to be done ? My self-respect, as you know, will not suffer, 
even by a hair's-breadth, but none the less, I am vexed for other 
reasons ; for I am not alone in the world, and unfortunately I 

am no longer as young as S . An idea, which is perhaps a 

very mad one, has come into my head. I will speak to you about 
it on Saturday, for if it were possible, not, of course, to appease 
the storm, but to moderate its effect by any tolerably practicable 
means, this would be the moment. 

" Try and find out if the report of the share which Flandrin 
and Robert Fleury are said to have taken in the matter is abso- 
lutely correct. I should be greatly interested to know why and 
how they supported me, and if they gave any reasons for their 
action. This does not relate to my plan for allaying the violence 
of the storm which I mentioned above. Why in the world cannot 
I paint things that are to M. Nieuwerkerke's taste ? If only M. 
de Chennevieres can succeed in hanging Titbit on the line in a 
good light, it will be a great thing. And you have heard nothing 
of that unfortunate Jean ? Perhaps he will have to learn in his 
turn that things are not always easy. Once more, if it is not too 
much trouble, try and get Tobit hung on the line. 

" If you hear anything fresh that is likely to interest me, be sure 
and tell me, without waiting till Saturday. Tillot tells me that 
Rousseau's pictures are progressing, and look very well. Good-day 
to you and to Madame Sensier and Rousseau. 

"J. F. Millet." 



In spite of Millet's fears and the opposition of his 
enemies, the opening day of the Salon proved a triumph 
for him. His Grande Tondeuse was especially admired, 
and his old friend, Charles Jacque, who had quarrelled 
with all the other Barbizon artists and now seldom saw 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



213 



Millet, came up to him in the Salon and congratulated 
him warmly on this masterpiece. The Tondeuse passed 
from the hands of Blanc and Stevens into an American 
collection, and is now in the gallery of Mr. Brooks, at 
Boston. 

On the other hand, the Tobit, which the painter him- 
self considered the finer work of the two, was fiercely 
assailed by the critics — most of all by his old admirers, 
Saint- Victor and Theophile Gautier. 

" To tell the truth," wrote Millet, " I prefer the way in which 
Saint- Victor now speaks of me to being loaded with his praises. 
His long string of empty words, his hollow flatteries, gave me the 
sensation of swallowing pomatum ! I would just as soon be rid 
of him at the cost of a little mire. If I wore pumps, I might 
find the road muddy, but in my sabots, I think I can get along." 

But he could not always meet his foes so gaily. There 
were moments when his courage failed and his heart 
sank within him. 

" If I were not so firm in my own convictions," he said to 
Sensier ; " if I had not a few friends, if in fact I were alone, I 
should begin to ask myself if I were not the dupe of my own 
imagination, and after all, nothing but a dreamer ! Come, in good 
earnest, what can I find that is true and serious and might help 
to correct my faults in the invectives of these gentlemen ? I look 
and find nothing but noise ! — not a single piece of advice, not one 
hint which might be of use to me. Is this the sole office of the 
critic, to abuse a man and then to disappear ? " 

Sensier insists, and contemporary art-journals and 
newspapers, with one or two rare exceptions, attest the 
truth of his statement, that Millet was attacked at this 
period of his life, as little better than a criminal, whose 
whole endeavour was to stir up honest citizens to revolt. 
This perpetual persecution and sense of injustice made him 
assume an attitude of hostility to the outside world in 



214 



J. F. MILLET 



general, and to critics in particular, which explains the 
bitterness of his remarks upon art-writers, and his re- 
luctance to make their acquaintance. This consciousness 
of being engaged in a hard battle left its impression 
even upon his face, and is reflected in the portraits of 
that time. There is a photograph of him, taken by a 
friend at Barbizon in 1861, in which he is seen wearing 
sabots and a grey jersey, and standing with his back 
against his garden wall. His head is erect, his foot firmly 
planted on the ground, his eye steadfastly fixed as it 
were on the advancing foe. He might be some peasant- 
hero of La Vendee, daring his enemies to do their worst. 
" You look like some peasant-leader going to be shot," 
was Sensier's remark when he saw the portrait. The 
expression pleased Millet. He was, as he often said, 
the leader of a forlorn hope, a sad and lonely fighter 
in a great cause. And one summer evening, as he stood 
by his garden wall, watching the setting sun sink in a 
blaze of fire over the plain, he exclaimed : 
"There lies the truth! Let us fight for it!" 
And so he fought and died, and Truth conquered. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



215 



XI 



1861-1862 

THE quarrel between the picture-dealers, Blanc and 
Stevens, which took place in the year 1861, involved 
Millet in endless troubles. During the lawsuit that fol- 
lowed, he was in constant difficulties, and could neither 
deliver his pictures, nor get the money which had been 
promised him by the contract. The correspondence lately 
published by Mr. T. H. Bartlett, abounds in allusions to 
these tiresome wrangles. M. Blanc complained to Sensier 
that a whole month had passed since the painter had 
sent him a picture, while Millet was left penniless, and 
did not know where to turn for help to supply his im- 
mediate needs. 



" Barbizon, 17 July. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Your notices of the pictures which I sent to Brussels are 
excellent. Who could anticipate the slowness of an express train, 
or imagine that a parcel leaving Melun on Sunday evening would 
not arrive in Paris before Tuesday morning ? I can well believe 
that Arthur Stevens would like to make more money out of my 
picture. What means is he taking to sell it ? Has he spoken 
to you about it ? I cannot see my way clear in this matter, al- 
though my first impression was that I should prefer him not to 
have it photographed. What is your opinion ? The annoyance 
of all this jobbery about pictures completely prevents me from seeing 
anything clearly. My conclusion may sound very vague. At any 
rate, I shall agree to whatever you may think best." 



2l6 



J. F. MILLET 



" Barbizon, 16 December. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Rousseau had already paid Harcus when I spoke to him 
about the 150 francs. He can lend them to me until the end of 
the week, when he goes to Paris. Can M. Niel buy the drawing, 
or is there any other way of selling it, so that Rousseau may not 
be embarrassed on my account ? Shall I make some more drawings, 
and is there any prospect of selling them ? It is a very grave matter 
if I do make them, because it prevents me from finishing my 
pictures ; and what is still more serious, Messieurs Blanc and 
Stevens may hear of it, and say that as I am doing work for others, 
I am seeking to break the contract. All this is very troublesome, 
but one must have bread. What shall I do ? It is evident that 
Stevens will do all he can to hinder the desired conclusion, but I 
beg you to urge the lawyers to do their task as rapidly as possible." 



To add to his difficulties, his wife had lately been 
confined, and her infant son was seriously ill. In the 
midst of these domestic troubles he was working hard at 
the fine picture of The Potato- Planters, one of his less- 
known but most finished works. A man and woman 
are seen at work on the edge of the plain: the labourer 
turns the sod with his hoe, and his wife drops in the 
potato-seed. Beside them their child slumbers in a 
pannier on the back of a donkey, in the shade of a big 
apple-tree, such as grew in Millet's own garden at Bar- 
bizon, and the village roofs are seen in the background, 
steeped in the luminous haze of evening. The Potato- 
Planters was one of the pictures which appeared at the 
Great Exhibition of Paris in 1862, and changed hands 
for large sums during the painter's lifetime. It is now 
at Boston, in the collection of Mr. Quincy Shaw. Happily 
the sick child recovered, and Millet wrote cheerfully to 
tell Rousseau of his new picture: 

"Barbizon, 31 December, 1861. 
"My dear Rousseau, — 

" Our child is cured, or, at least, is almost well again ; only 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



217 



he does nothing but howl and suck, and leaves his mother no rest. 
But our anxiety is over, which is a great thing. I am working with 
all my might at my Planters, which means that you will no doubt 
see me arrive before long and upset everything in your atelier, as 
is only natural. You must have seen Eugene Cuvelier. He showed 
me some very fine photographs taken in his own country and in the 
forest. The subjects are chosen with taste, and include some of 
the finest groups of timber that are about to disappear. You have 
also seen Bodmer, who is delighted with what you have shown him. 
This morning we have had a hoar-frost of marvellous beauty, and 
which I will not attempt to describe. I have a letter from Vallardi 
clamouring for his little picture. Tell him he need not distress 
himself, for I mean to bring it with me when I come to Paris. 

" The children have been engaged since yesterday in composing 
New-Year letters. They really toil in the sweat of their brow to 
produce things which for all their pains are hardly to be called 
masterpieces. T do not intend to give myself so much trouble, 
and will content myself with wishing you, Madame Rousseau and 
all of yours the best of possible years, and will add that if the 
coming year is all I wish it, you will not have much reason to 
complain. My wife and children join with me. Au revoir, my 
dear Rousseau. 

" Yours affectionately, 

"J. F. Millet." 

But the vexatious worry of his affairs with Blanc and 
Stevens still pursued him, and filled his mind with haunt- 
ing terrors. On the 3rd of January, 1862, he writes to 
Sensier : 



" My dear Sensier, — 

" The New Year is not to be one of the seven fat kine of 
Pharaoh's dream. I fear the long series of lean cattle is not yet 
over, for this one has opened gloomily. Our child is cured. 
That is the bright side. But this business drags on, and I find 
myself compelled to await the end of a lawsuit in which I take 
no part, and that without having any other means of subsistence. 
It is a horrible complication ! Are there then no laws, no judges 
who can help me out of this ? Try and find out, and let me know. 



218 



J. F. MILLET 



This state of things cannot last. M. Templier assured us of the 
lawsuit's speedy end. He seemed sure of that, but till then how 
am I to live and await the good pleasure of the judges ? O 
Solomon, surely you were more speedy ! I am coming to Paris 
in a few days, when my sick headaches have departed. In spite 
of these I am working with all my might. . . . 

"My whole time has been so rigorously devoted to work that 
I have not had a moment to plant our trees. But I mean to 
take a day and put in our apple-trees, so that they may not suffer. 
There will be two in our old garden, and two more in Ribouillard's 
plot. We are afraid you may be put to inconvenience by keeping 
our big Marie for so long. She does not seem to complain, which 
is not to be wondered at since Madame Sensier loads her with treats 
of every description. When you hear that a young girl of her 
age has already seen a bazaar, that she is in ecstasies over the 
sign of Biche the baker, and that she has seen lions eat ! 
Franfrance (Frangois Millet's eldest son) intends to make her 
give him a minute description as to the manner in which Messieurs 
the lions open their jaws to discharge this function. Tell her 
that we all embrace her warmly." 

The next letter contains the first mention of his famous 
Homme a la Houe, a picture which he foresaw would 
not be likely to please the public taste, and which ap- 
parently M. Blanc did not appreciate. 



" Barbizon, January n, 1862. 

" The two pictures which M. Blanc does not seem to care 
about are my Norman landscape and the Man leaning upon his 
hoe; but I have worked so hard at them that perhaps when he 
sees them he may find them more to his taste than he expects. 
My Man with the Hoe will get me into trouble with the people 
who do not like to be disturbed by thoughts of any other world 
than their own. But I have taken up my position, and mean to 
make a stand here. 

" I am preparing the drawing for M. Niel. Let him know, so 
that he may be prepared to receive it soon. Do you think it 
would be too much to ask for 150 francs? It is a water-colour 
drawing. ... I have received a letter from Pierre. He 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



219 



tells me that nearly the whole of the United States population 
has taken up arms, and that recruiting is still going on. He sa) s 
that the Northern States have about 500,000 men under arms, 
and the South about as many. ... I am working at my 
picture of a man and woman planting potatoes, which would be 
finished tolerably quickly if I were not constantly interrupted by 
other things." 

"March 4, 1862. 

"We were horrified at the death of Madame J . It is 

frightful to see the number of friends who have fallen round us in 
the last few months. However much we prepare our minds to 
bear all these ills that flesh is heir to, we are none the less taken 
by surprise and overcome when they happen. It will be a great 
kindness if you can bring me what I want when you come at 
Easter. What wretched weather! Everything is hard-frozen. I 
know not if anything will escape. Oh ■brimavera of the poets — 
triste, triste 1 " 

" March 27, 1862. 

" Pere Verdier has brought us some thorns ; for you some horn- 
beams, beeches, and service-trees, and also some little elms, all 
twisted, and of the right sort, which we must plant the first time 
you come here. They have fresh and shining stems, and look 
like healthy beings. As for the laurels you speak of, I am not 
so modest as to dislike laurels ! Bring as many as you like, and 
if the choice of varieties depends upon you, let there be one at 
least of the tree kind. I always remember the one which grew 
in my parents' garden, and which lives in my imagination as the 
perfect type of a laurel. The trunk was as big as a man's body, 
the leaves rather dull than shiny, and of a fine dark-green colour. 
In short, it was a laurel worthy of Apollo himself. My wife is 
sowing seeds in your garden and in our own. The weather is 
magnificent and very hot, but beware of the April moon ! " 

" May 12, 1862. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have just devoted Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to one 
of my most famous headaches. I cannot get over it yet. We 
did not know that you had been upset on your return to Melun. 
As for the explanation of which you speak, we will talk of that 
on Sunday. Some means must be taken, and materials collected 



220 J. F. MILLET 

to meet the charges of these eternal barkers. The best way would 
be to remind people quietly of what they have said, throw their 
own words in their teeth, and humbly ask for an explanation. We 
must talk of that seriously on Sunday. And please keep your 
ears open, and let me know what people are saying of my 
Potato-Planters. " 

Rousseau and Sensier had decided to write an article 
in defence of Millet, in order to answer the charges that 
were being constantly brought against his work and 
intention. At the same time an exhibition of three of his 
pictures was held that summer at Martinet's rooms on the 
Boulevard des Italiens. Thore" wrote a descriptive notice, 
and Millet supplied both him and Sensier with notes 
explaining his ideas and intention. The three pictures 
had all been painted in the course of the last two years, 
and were the property of Blanc and Stevens. One, the 
Becque"e — now in the Lille Museum — had already been 
exhibited in the Salon of 1861. The others — La Tonte des 
Moutons and La Femme aux Seaux — were remarkable 
examples of his finest thought and execution. The sheep- 
shearing takes place in a picturesque farmyard, shaded 
with large trees, such as belonged to the Norman yeomen 
in the neighbourhood of Gr6ville, which Millet had known 
so well in his youth. Two peasants — a man and a young 
woman — ply the shears, and the sheep, some of them 
already shorn, others awaiting their turn, and bleating 
after their wont, are penned inside the enclosure. In the 
background, between the boughs of the trees, the cows are 
seen feeding on a green hillside that rises behind the 
peaceful homestead. 

"I have tried," said Millet, "to paint a happy corner 
where life is good, in spite of its hardships. The air is 
pure; it is a lovely August day! " 

The Femme aux Seaux was at once recognised as a 
worthy companion to the Grande Tondeuse, and, like that 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



221 



picture, was destined to find a home in the New World. 
It formed part of the Hartmann collection for many years, 
and is now in the Vanderbilt Gallery at New York. The 
subject is simple enough. A young peasant-woman has 
been drawing water from the well, and is in the act of 
bearing home her pails. Her figure and attitude, the 
movement of her arms, and the way she balances the pails, 
are all given with the utmost fidelity, while the rustic 
charm of her face and form is set off by the richly- 
coloured background, with its old stone well and clusters 
of hanging ivy. 

Millet himself has explained the meaning of the picture 
in the following letter — one of the most characteristic 
expressions of his favourite theories that we have: 



" My dear Sensier, — 

" This is the substance of what I have written to Thore 
about three of my pictures which are now on view at Martinet's 
rooms : 

" In the Woman Drawing Water, I have tried to show that she 
is neither a water-carrier nor yet a servant, but simply a woman 
drawing water for the use of her household — to make soup for her 
husband and children. I have tried to make her look as if she 
were carrying neither more nor less than the weight of the buckets 
full of water ; and that through the kind of grimace which the load 
she bears forces her to make, and the blinking of her eyes in the 
sunlight, you should be able to see the air of rustic kindness on 
her face. I have avoided, as I always do, with a sort of horror, 
everything that might verge on the sentimental. On the con- 
trary, I have tried to make her do her work simply and cheer- 
fully, without regarding as a burden this act which, like other 
household duties, is part of her daily task, and the habit of her 
life. I have also tried to make people feel the freshness of the 
well, and to show by its ancient air how many generations have 
come there before her to draw water. 

" In the Woman Feeding her Chickens, I have tried to give the 
idea of a nest of birds being fed by their mother. The man in 
the background works to feed his young. 



222 



J. F. MILLET 



" In the Sheep-Shearing, I tried to express the sort of bewilder- 
ment and confusion which is felt by the newly-sheared sheep, 
and the curiosity and surprise of those who have not yet been 
sheared, at the sight of those naked creatures. I tried to give 
the house a peaceful and rustic air, and to make people see the 
green enclosure behind, and the sheltering poplars ; in fact, as 
far as possible, I have tried to give the impression of an old 
building full of memories. 

" I also told him, in case he chooses to say so, that I try to 
make things look as if they were not brought together by chance 
or for the occasion, but were united by a strong and indispensable 
bond. I want the people I represent to look as if they belonged 
to their place, and as if it were impossible to imagine they could 
ever think of being anything but what they are. People and things 
should always be there for a definite purpose. I want to say 
strongly and completely all that is necessary. What is feebly 
said had better not be said at all, for then things are, as it were, 
spoiled and robbed of their charm. But I have the greatest 
horror of useless accessories, which, however brilliant they may 
be, can only weaken the subject and distract attention. 

" I hardly know if all this was worth saying — but there it is. 
You must give me your advice. Will you come on Saturday, as 
you had almost decided ? Here, there is no news. The children's 
whooping-cough seems to be a little better. Our salutations. 

"J. F. Millet." 



The exhibition at Martinet's met with great success, 
and materially improved Millet's position in the public 
eyes. On the 24th of May he wrote again to Sensier on 
the subject : 

" My dear Sensier, — 

" I should have answered your letter yesterday, but was 
unable to do so owing, as you will easily divine, to my ever- 
lasting headaches. Do not lend anything to Martinet's Exhibition 
before we have looked over your drawings together, for I intend 
to go to Paris for this purpose before long. Let him wait a little. 
If you are still coming for Ascension Day, I will arrange to return 
here with you. I must own that I am very glad to hear what 
you tell me of my pictures at Martinet's, for a contrary report 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



221 



would by no means have surprised me. I shall be very well 
satisfied if M. Blanc could sell my Potato-Planters. Would this 
not be a good opportunity to bring out the article which you were 
preparing a little time back? Talking of articles, last Sunday I 
received the annual of La Manche, which contains a flaming 
account of me from the pen of Simeon Luce, the author of La 
Jacquerie; and since then I have had an extremely flattering 
letter from the same quarter. He gave me Rue des Poir£es 5, 
Hotel de l'Europe, which must be a boarding-house, as his address, 
— a proof that he does not always reside in Paris. I have answered 
his letter." 

"8 June, 1862. 
" Please see that my drawings are not too badly hung at Marti- 
net's. I wrote to ask Simeon Luce for the name of a work on 
Poussin, which he mentioned to me the last time I was in Paris. 
[He replies by sending him a book entitled : Les Andelys et Nicolas 
Poussin, par Gandar, Membre de V Academic Caen, i860.] I 
have not had time to make fresh researches among my old letters 
to see if I can find one or two more from my mother and grand- 
mother, but I am going to attack them some evening. When 
are you coming? Au revoir ; before long, I hope. 

"J. F. Millet." 



Sensier was already meditating a record of Millet's life, 
and was anxious to collect all the material that was 
available for his purpose. He came to Barbizon for the 
summer holidays, and spent the days in long walks and 
talks with his friend. Millet was always glad of an 
excuse to talk of his old home, and on this occasion he 
gladly wrote down the touching account of his early 
impressions, which forms so precious a chapter of Sensier' s 
volume. 

Better times now seemed to be in store for the painter. 
The success of his little exhibition, and his increasing 
fame, had made buyers more frequent and dealers civil. 
M. Blanc found it easy to sell his pictures, and had 
become surprisingly amiable in consequence, as Millet 
innocently tells Sensier : 



224 



J. F. MILLET 



"Barbizon, 21 July, 1862. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

"A week ago Monsieur Blanc and his wife came to spend 
the day with us. We are better friends than ever. He seemed 
enchanted with what he saw in my atelier. The man leaning on 
his hoe seems to him magnificent ! — these were his very words. It 
he were in the Government's place, he would buy all my pictures 
which are chapters of the same story, and hang them all together 
in the same gallery. Once more he expressed his usual regrets that 
circumstances had not thrown me among other surroundings, where 
I might have received more agreeable impressions. But things 
being as they are, there is nothing that should be modified, by 
so much as a hair's-breadth, the more so that these things are 
also worth doing. He said many more things in the same strain, 
all very flattering ; but if I tried to put them down, they would 
fill a volume ! Last of all, he said this : ' My dear Millet, let 
Sensier help me to sell your pictures. I do not say all of them, 
but as many as will suffice to cover my expenses; and there is 
no reason we should not continue in partnership for the next ten 
years. Really, I am very fond of you. You are a profound 
thinker ! ' 

"So poor Adrien Laveille has reached the end to which his illness 
was bound to come. I believe he leaves several children, which 
is very sad." 

The next letter alludes to an application which had 
been made by a new dealer for some of his etchings : 



"Barbizon, Sunday, 3 August, 1862. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" This is what you must do with Cadart : if he wants some 
of my plates, he must buy them, and take as many copies as he 
likes. Only I hardly know what price I ought to ask. But I 
give you carte blanche in this matter, and in all others. Do 
whatever you think best ; or do nothing at all, if that seems 
better to you. Once more, act according as you think appears 
best for good or evil. Madame Rousseau seems well. Rousseau 
came back from Paris on Friday, but he was so much taken up 
with business, that he could not go to your house. He only 
saw Feuardent and Alfred Feydeau. What you say of Madame 



■■■ 






^^^^^■i 




HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



225 



Diaz does not sound lively. The poor woman must suffer greatly ! 
We are anxious to see you established here. The children are 
dying to see Madame Sensier and her little girl. Good-bye to 
you both and to Jeanne, and au revoir very soon. 

"J. F. Millet. 
"P.S. — If you have not had time to settle anything with Cadart, 
so much the worse. Bon voyage ! and on Thursday the holidays ! " 

And a little later he asks anxiously again for news of 
Madame Diaz, and of her daughter Marie, and condoles 
with them on the sad state of Madame Diaz's health 
with his usual warmth of heart. 

The summer months sped happily by, and Millet worked 
hard at several pictures. One was a winter scene of 
rooks flying across a snowy landscape. Another repre- 
sented a stag standing by the crumbling stones of the 
old wall which once formed the boundary of the forest, 
and looking out with startled eyes and ears erect at the 
unknown country before him. The dark shadows of the 
forest were finely contrasted with the brilliant light of 
the open plain, and the rich hues of the old stones, with 
their ferns and grasses and creeping lizards. This poetic 
little picture, sometimes described as the Cerf aux Ecoutes, 
sometimes as Le Vieux Mur, was eventually bought by 
Sensier, and sold after his death in 1877 to an American 
collector. The artist was still working at V Homme a la 
Houe, when, towards the end of October, a sudden attack 
of fever interrupted his labours, and compelled him to 
take to his bed. 



" Always evil ! " he wrote sorrowfully. " When will the good 
come ? Ah, life ! life ! how hard it sometimes is ; and how much 
we need our friends, and yonder heaven to help us to come back 
to it ! " 

And he pointed to the strip of blue sky which he saw 
through the trees of his garden. 

Q 



226 



J. F. MILLET 



Before he had recovered from this illness, a terrible 
event took place in his immediate neighbourhood, and 
plunged him into the deepest gloom. Early in November 
his friend Rousseau, who had not yet left Barbizon for 
Paris, was gratified by a visit from an eminent lover of 
art, M. Fr£d6ric Hartmann, who expressed the liveliest 
admiration for his landscapes, and induced him, a week 
afterwards, to pay a visit to him in Alsace. Rousseau 
had gone there, intending to proceed with his wife to visit 
her relations in Franche Comt£, and had left a cousin, 
Adele Rousseau, together with his friend Vallardi, in 
charge of his house at Barbizon. The tragedy which 
followed is best told in Millet's own words: 



"Barbizon, November 18, 1862. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

"The wretched Vallardi has killed himself! Yesterday 
morning, towards eight o'clock, Louis Fouche" came hurriedly to 
my atelier, which I had just entered. He told me, still trembling 
as he spoke, that he had gone into Vallardi's room to rub him 
as usual, and had called him to see if he were still asleep, but 
receiving no answer, he had put in his head and had seen him lying 
on the bed covered with blood. He had not dared look any 
further, and had hastened here to tell me. Imagine the blow 
this was to me ! I ran back with him and Luniot whom we met 
on the way, and found the wretched man bathed in blood, and 
lying quite dead. 

" How, and why did he kill himself ? we asked ourselves. I 
saw on a table by his bed a pair of scissors covered with blood, 
and have no doubt that he stabbed himself with these. The 
mayor and doctor of Chailly came on the spot. We opened his 
shirt to see where he had struck himself, and found seventeen 
wounds at the heart, besides many others all around. It is im- 
possible to describe the horrible appearance of the unhappy man, 
the way in which he had struggled on his bed, which was all 
in disorder, the prints of his hands in blood on the sheets, on 
the pillow, and everywhere — even on the curtains of the bed 
which he had grasped, and which were torn and bloody. I will 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



227 



try and tell you all about it. The gendarmes and the Procureur 
Imperial have arrived, and there is a complete revolution in 
Barbizon. I wrote immediately to Rousseau, who will feel the 
shock severely. I am so much distressed that I must stop here. 
Vallardi killed himself during the night between Sunday and 
Monday. He was not yet quite cold when we arrived. 

" Yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 



" Barbizon, 20 November. 

" I cannot get over the fearful impression which this death, 
under such awful conditions, has made upon me. Yet this 
wretched man never knew any real suffering ; he was merely un- 
happy because he had not a large enough income. He could not 
bear to face poverty. Poverty ! why, the poor fellow had never 
even seen its approach from afar. He was unmarried, with only 
himself to keep, and a small fortune of his own. He had Rousseau 
for his friend, and others besides in Paris. He had never known 
that fearful thing — poverty, and all that accompanies it. The mere 
terror of suffering had turned his brain. He must have been mad, 
and we have accordingly signed a certificate to that effect. The 
Cure did all he could to help us, and has obtained from the Dean 
of Melun permission to use the services of the Church, which 
had at first been refused. Our certificate of insanity has removed 
that difficulty. 

" Imagine what would have become of the unfortunate Adele, 
all alone with the body, if, as might easily have happened, Tillot 
and I had been absent. We have, so to speak, never left the 
place, and have answered all inquiries, and given all necessary 
orders. We kept watch by the corpse. In short, I think, we 
have been of use. I should never stop writing if I tried to tell 
you half the strange things which were done by the people who 
were there at the time, or who came afterwards. The grotesque 
is mixed up with everything, even with death. He was buried 
yesterday. The funeral procession was not a long one — two 
gentlemen of the Maison Didot, M. Rousseau, pere, and ourselves, 
perhaps ten persons in all. He certainly killed himself from fear 
of dying in poverty. His Paris friends told us so. 

" This horrible end is always before me. Imagine what his 
agony must have been. It is easy now to see how it all happened. 



228 



J. F. MILLET 



Since he was unable to sleep again that night, he resolved to put 
an end to the story. He went into the dining-room, took Madame 
Rousseau's scissors, and standing by the bedside, struck himself 
until his strength was exhausted, and he fell with his face against 
the table and his knees on the floor, as was evident from the bruises 
upon his nose and knees. The blow overturned the candle, which 
happily went out in falling. Imagine the struggles of the unhappy 
man, groping about in the dark, trying to rise and being unable, 
slipping in the pool of blood, and at length hoisting himself with 
infinite difficulty on to the bed. Think of this fearful struggle going 
on in the dark. If you could have seen how he had struggled on 
his bed ! He left terrible traces of his agony. If he could have 
seen, before he killed himself, the hideous scene upon which the 
morning rose, I think he would have stopped short. It is a miracle 
that the house was not burnt down. The candle fell first of all on 
the sheets, and then rolled on the ground just underneath the cur- 
tains, against which it lay. What a horrible affair that would have 
been for Rousseau ! for if the fire had broken out, it would have 
been impossible for the atelier, which is overhead, not to have 
caught fire. Think of Rousseau's canvases, drawings, and sketches, 
all on fire — everything which he had begun and finished destroyed 
in his absence, and nothing left but a heap of ashes ! I am still 
quite dazed. Come on Sunday if possible. I need some one to 
bring me to my senses, for I have never felt anything like this. 
Oh ! how difficult it is to breathe in this atmosphere of suicide ! 
I am surrounded with perpetual nightmares. 

"J. F. Millet." 

For days and weeks Millet was haunted by the horrors 
of that awful scene. He could not forget the frightful 
details of the murder, and the horrible sight which had 
met his eyes that morning. At length, in order to clear 
his brain, he sat down and drew a pastel of the unfor- 
tunate man on his death-bed, an awful but strangely 
powerful rendering of the reality. By degrees, however, 
his saner nature got the better of his tortured imagina- 
tion. Courage and calm came back to him, and he set 
to work again and put the last touches to his picture of 
the stag looking over the breach in the old wall. On 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



229 



the 28th of November he wrote to Sensier in his usual 
strain : 

" I could not come to Paris, for I wanted to let my picture 
alone for a day or two, and then look at it again for a little while 
before I delivered it. So I will come about the 8th of next month. 
You had not spoken to me of the Courier du Dimanche, nor yet 
of Ulbach, so I fail to understand your allusions. Please explain 
this. I have resumed my search for my mother's letters. I have 
found one which was dictated by her, and there are still some other 
things. ... I was going to copy it out for you, but I must 
have laid it down by accident with the block. I will look again. 
I have no news of Rousseau. How are they all at his house? 
Good health to you both ! 

" J. F. Millet. 

"P.S. — I have received a note for 1,000 francs which I send to 
Marchand to be cashed. Call on him, please, and send me the 
money at once. I am giving you a great deal of trouble." 



" Barbizon, Wednesday, 3 December. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I start to-morrow, Thursday, morning for Paris. I shall 
bring my Old Wall, which I hope will meet with the approval 
of M. Blanc and his clients. I have informed him of my arrival, 
and shall, no doubt, see him in the course of the day. If you can, 
come to Rousseau's. Anyhow, I will come and see you on Friday 
morning. Jacque is here." 



230 



J. F. MILLET 



XII 



1862-1863 

THE successful exhibition of Millet's pictures and 
drawings which had been lately held on the Boule- 
vard des Italiens ) had encouraged Sensier to repeat the 
experiment on a larger scale. With this intention he 
applied to M. Goupil, who received his overtures favour- 
ably, as we learn from the following letter: 



" Barbizon, December 19, 1862. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" The result of your interview with M. Goupil seems to me 
very satisfactory on the whole. I think that it will be a decided 
advantage if we can have the use of his rooms, seeing that the 
high reputation of his firm is, in itself, a recommendation of the 
pictures which he allows to be exhibited there. He may be certain 
that my pictures have not been much seen before they appear in 
his rooms, and you may truthfully assure him that he will have 
been, as it were, the first promoter of this enterprise. I think the 
proposal to engrave the pictures is an excellent one, since it will 
give them a wide publicity, and, if the plan answers, ought to pro- 
duce some material profit. Once more, I am very well satisfied 
with the result of your application to M. Goupil. If he wishes to 
have some of my pictures at once, perhaps he had better begin 
with the Shepherd and Potato-Planters, rather than with the larger 
works. Their turn would come later on. Let him ask Alfred to 
varnish the Potato- Planters before he sends it to him. If you think 
it of any use, next time I come to Paris, we will go to M. Goupil's 
together. I have nothing more to say on the subject. When I 
came away from Paris I left 50 francs for you with Madame 
Rousseau. You know its destination. I have nothing more to 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



23I 



say but that we are fairly well, and that I am working like a slave. 
I am finishing my winter landscape with the crows, and the man 
leaning on his hoe, and will bring them to Paris by the end of the 
month. Good-bye, and good health to you, Madame Sensier, and 
Jeanne." 

" Barbizon, 29 December, 1862. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have put off my journey to Paris till after the New Year, 
which I like to spend with my family. We were present in spirit at 
the baptism of your little Jeanne, and we all wish that she may 
renounce the devil and all his pomps, not only in words, and grow 
up a good and virtuous girl. If that ceremony were gone through 
with heart-felt sincerity, and not as in most cases as a mere form, 
nothing could be more touching or more solemn. . . . 

" I have had a visit from M. M , as you announced. Of 

course I knew nothing, and he assumed the air of a man who is 
merely seeking information, but let me find out his secret by the 
way in which he spoke of his plans. One thing I strongly recom- 
mend you to do : that is, to prevent him from destroying this 
enclosure, which is most beautiful, and which he proposes to ruin 
with his improvements. First of all, he intends to plant some pine 
trees and other evergreens in the little wood, because he thinks 
that bare stems look too gloomy in winter. His other plans are 
too elaborate to tell by letter, but he has the most revolutionary 
ideas. 

" I should like to hear what you and Jacque have been discussing. 
We all of us join in sending you all three those good wishes for the 
New Year which we cherish for those whom we love best. 

"J. F. Millet. 

" Tell the Laures that I will bring their drawing when I come." 



This drawing was the portrait of their dead child, Jenny 
Laure, which Millet had lately finished for her parents. 

Monsieur M , to whose visit Millet refers, and whose 

intended improvements he regarded with such dismay, had 
apparently entered into negotiations with Sensier as to 
renting Jacque' s old house next door. He is never men- 
tioned again, so that his proposals were probably not 



232 



J. F. MILLET 



accepted. In any case the field at the back of Millet's 
house, with the "little wood" and the path leading 
towards the plain, remained unchanged. Some years 
afterwards the painter made a beautiful picture of this 
"corner" which he loved so well, with the apple-trees of 
his garden flowering in the foreground, and a rainbow 
spanning the black storm-cloud behind the wood — the 
same picture which now hangs in the Louvre, and bears 
the name of Le Printemps. He had, Sensier tells us in 
quoting this letter, the utmost horror of any attempts to 
embellish nature, and a perfect passion for allowing trees 
and creepers the most entire liberty. To see clematis or 
honeysuckle pruned gave him real pain ; and if he had 
been allowed his own way, ivy and creepers would have 
forced their way into the rooms of his house. We remem- 
ber how he made his brother promise never to cut the ivy 
which grew on the old house at Greville, and how great 
a part the ancient elm, " gnawed by the teeth of the 
wind," and the laurel, worthy of Apollo, still played in the 
recollections of his childhood ; and visitors describe his 
Barbizon cottage as thickly overgrown with a mass of 
Virginia creeper, of jessamine, and clematis and ivy, while 
climbing roses and honeysuckle trailed along the garden 
walls, and sweet-smelling flowers were mingled with the 
vegetables and fruit-bushes. 

This same passionate love of Nature made Millet take 
an active part in resisting all attempts to spoil the Forest 
of Fontainebleau, whether they were made by the Govern- 
ment or by private individuals. His zeal in defending 
the beauty of earth, and in resisting unjust encroach- 
ments, more than once brought him into conflict with 
his friends, especially Jacque, who was less scrupulous in 
these matters, and whose high-handed dealings often ex- 
cited the animosity of his neighbours. In January, 1861, 
he wrote the following letter to Sensier, complaining of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



233 



Jacque's attempt to close one of the chief entrances to 
the forest, and begging him to give him his powerful help 
in defending the public rights : 

" My dear Sensier, — 

"You know the piece of land that Jacque bought, near the 
Mazette Gate of the forest, and remember that a path has run 
through it for a long time. Now he does not like the way in 
which this path divides his land, and he has bribed the Mayor, 
Belon, by painting a little picture for him, and a brooch for his 
wife, and promising one hundred francs to the Commune, to give 
him permission to close this path. The public crier has already 
announced that the voters are to meet next Sunday to vote on 
this matter. All Barbizon is in a flutter. It appears that Jacque 
has promised all sorts of favours to those who will vote for his 
project. Many votes will be swayed by the influence of the Mayor, 
because the people are cowards and afraid of him, and Jacque has 
no doubt secured the Prefect's support. I do not know what 
entrance to the forest is to be made instead of the Mazette, nor 
what will be gained or lost by the change ; but it seems to me right 
to prevent, if possible, any one from acting just as he pleases, 
regardless of public interests, especially when he tries to make 
rain or sunshine just as it suits himself ! Cannot you put a spoke 
in the wheel through the Office of the Minister ? Look into it and 
act quickly, for next Sunday will decide the question. If there is 
any means of fettering their hands, let us try it. Jacque's plans 
are by no means limited to this enterprise. He also wishes to close 
the path that runs at the back of our fields. I do not know the 
right name, but it is the one that runs just at the back of his 
studio, through your land, and by Pere Lefort and Coffin's apple- 
trees. Rousseau and I talked over this matter last night, and wish 
that we could prevent this ass of a Belon from being at the mercy 
of every whim that comes into Jacque's head. It is really more a 
question of principle than anything else. Personally I care nothing 
about it ; but it is impossible to consent to everything that he 
wishes to do, either in his own interests or else to annoy others. 
In any case, could not you and Tillot send your votes against 
closing the Mazette Gate. Fortunately he has his enemies, and 
Bourgignon is one of them. Imagine the indignation of Bodmer ! 
Incredible as it seems, he actually came to see me to talk over 



234 J- F « MILLET 

this matter. Lastly, if you have, either directly or indirectly, any 
rapid and powerful means of influence at your disposal whereby 
you can hinder this matter, put it into force, and show this new 
Robert Macaire that he has no right to throw dirt at every one, as 
it happens to please his fancy. Give Belon a lesson also if it is 
possible. Fool that he is to side with Jacque in this thing, and 
help to close the forest gates which have been left open by the 
Administration ! " 



But the step which roused Millet's indignation to the 
highest pitch was the threatened desecration of the 
churchyard at Chailly, on the edge of the plain. This 
ancient cemetery, which stretched for nearly an acre 
round the old church that figures in the distance of the 
Angelus, had been during centuries the burial-place of 
the inhabitants of the Commune. It was a quiet and 
peaceful spot, dear alike to Millet and Rousseau from the 
antiquity and sacredness of its associations. No wonder 
they were full of dismay and anger when they heard of the 
vandal projects that were on foot for the ruin of this 
time-honoured graveyard under the shadow of the old 
church. 

"Barbizon, 21 November, 1863. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

"Perhaps you do not know that they are going to destroy the 
little cemetery that surrounds the church at Chailly, and prepare 
the site for dancing on fete days. It is, as you remember, one of 
those rare little places that remind one of the memories of other 
days. Nothing stands in the way of the rage for embellishment 
that takes hold of people ; and the inhabitants of Chailly, 
stupid as idiots and utterly heartless, mean to fatten their land 
with the bones of their relatives. As long as it enriches them, 
they care little from what quarter the money comes ! This earth 
made of bones is to be sold by auction ! and yet it is only a short 
time since their own friends were buried there. Is there no possible 
way to put a stop to these things ? Is there no specified time that 
must elapse before sepulchres can be destroyed, especially when, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 235 

as in this case, there is no urgent necessity for the deed ? These 
wretches actually intend to scatter the bones of their own families 
over the fields to make the potatoes grow ! Oh, shameful and 
brutal hand of man ! If the work is not already begun, it will be 
very soon. Go ; if anything can be done, it must be done quickly. 
Baseness of heart seems to stop at nothing and to show itself in 
every form." 

A little later Millet wrote a second letter to Sensier on 
the same subject : 

" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have had a little talk with Rousseau about the Chailly 
cemetery, and have decided to write a letter to the Prefet, although 
there may be little chance of success, especially as we hear that he 
himself, when he was in Chailly, saw the old churchyard, and said 
that it ought to be destroyed. The Mayor, like a foolish courtier, 
did not fail to improve the occasion by agreeing with his superior. 
The trees that surrounded it are already sold. Tillot cannot help 
us, as he is gone to Paris to-day for at least a month. I hope you 
will see him now and then. After what I have said about the 
Prefet, do you think we had better write to him or to the Minister ? 
Give me your advice." 

Millet exerted himself to the utmost to save the old 
churchyard, but his efforts were in vain. The work of 
desecration was ruthlessly carried out, and the remains 
of the forefathers of the village were dug up. A few 
bones only were removed to the new cemetery ; the rest 
were scattered to the wind. The graves were filled up 
with earth, and the inhabitants danced on the spot, or 
drove in their cattle to graze there. Fortunately a new 
Curt came to Chailly in 1888, and applied himself 
vigorously to reform this abuse. He threatened the 
Mayor with legal proceedings; and since this step did 
not produce much effect, he armed himself with a big 
stick, and drove out the cattle and their herdsmen. In 
course of time he raised a cross on the spot, planted trees 



236 



J. F. MILLET 



around it, and once more consecrated the ancient God's 
acre which in Millet's eyes had seemed so rare and holy 
a place. And on the cross he carved these words, which 
may still be read : " A nos peres, qui dorment ici } en 
attendant la Resurrection." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



237 



XIII 



1863-1864 

THE year 1863 was remarkable for the variety of re- 
forms introduced in the Department of Fine Arts 
by the energetic Director, M. de Nieuwerkerke. Salons, 
it was now decreed, were henceforth to be held every 
year. The purely official jury was abolished, and the 
election of three-fourths of the body was granted to those 
artists who had received medals at the Salon. Lastly, all 
exhibitors who had received a first or second medal in 
previous years were pronounced exempt from examina- 
tion by the jury. This enabled Millet to exhibit three 
pictures in the Salon of 1863. One of these was the 
famous Homme a la Houe, which he felt sure no jury 
would ever have admitted. The others were A Woman 
Carding Wool, and A Shepherd Driving Home his Sheep at 
Evening, — a picture to which M. Blanc alludes in one of 
his letters to the painter, as an altogether charming work 
that would not take long to sell. Millet expressed his 
satisfaction on the subject of the new regulations in the 
following letter : 



"Barbizon, 20 January, 1863. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" I am very glad to think I shall not have to go through the 
ordeal of trial by jury for the Exhibition. You have forgotten to 
tell me one thing that is of importance — the time when pictures 
are to be sent in. I will regulate my work accordingly. I shall 
now be able to exhibit my Man with the Hoe, which would most 



2 3 8 



J. F. MILLET 



certainly have been refused by the jury whom we know but too well ! 
I also hope to send my Shepherd Returning Home at Evening, and 
A Woman Carding Wool, on which I am at work at this moment. 
I hope to give her a grace and a calm which are not seen in the 
workwomen of the suburbs. I have still a great deal to do to her, 
but the memory of the peasant-women at home, spinning and card- 
ing wool, is still fresh in my mind, and that is better than anything. 
Please give me the information I want, for there may be such a 
thing as mistakes which are not involuntary, and which may result 
in throwing me overboard and making me responsible to this good 
jury ! Answer me soon for fear of delays. Ah ! it is good all the 
same to feel yourself free and able to say what you like. But how 
I shall be attacked ! " 

Millet's forebodings proved correct. The appearance of 
VHomme a la Houe at the Salon was the signal for a 
perfect storm of abuse and insolence. The old cry was 
revived, and Millet was once more reviled as a dangerous 
agitator and democrat. The man who could paint such 
subjects must be a Socialist of the worst type, an Anarchist 
whose evident object it was to stir up popular strife, and 
set the masses against the classes. His former admirers, 
Theophile Gautier and Paul de Saint- Victor, were the 
fiercest among his assailants, and a torrent of abusive 
language was heaped upon the painter's head. To him 
all this angry clamour seemed very strange. The Homme 
a la Houe was merely the representation of his central 
idea. In this lonely figure both sides of peasant life — the 
hardship of daily toil and the simple dignity of labour 
— are truthfully set forth. The man with the hoe is no 
degraded beast of burden, far less is he the purely orna- 
mental peasant of the poet's Arcady. His clothes may 
be patched and worn, but they are neither ragged nor 
squalid. He wears the blue trousers and stout sabots of 
the French peasant ; his hat and blouse, thrown off in 
the heat of his toil, lie on the ground at his side. His 
hands are hard and seamed, his stalwart form is bent 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



239 



with fatigue. All day he has been at work on the stony 
ground, and now he leans heavily with both arms upon 
his hoe, and snatches a brief moment of repose. Behind 
him, stretching far away to the horizon, is the great plain 
where peasants of all ages are at work — men and boys 
guiding the plough, and a young girl raking the weeds into 
heaps. We see the thistles that spring up on the barren 
soil, the hard dusty clods, the tufts of coarse herbage, 
with a yellow daisy here and there, and the smoke of 
burning weeds curling up against the grey sky. Every- 
thing helps to give the same impression of dull, monoto- 
nous labour, the same sense of "weariness," of which he 
himself spoke as being " the common and melancholy lot 
of humanity." The old text, " Thou shalt eat bread in the 
sweat of thy brow," was in his mind when he painted 
that picture ; the same thoughts which came back to him 
whenever in his evening walk across the plain he saw 
those solitary figures hoeing the ground, from time to time 
raising themselves and stopping to wipe their foreheads 
with the back of their hand. " No light and playful task 
this ! " he had said, " nevertheless to me it is true hu- 
manity and great poetry." 

It was one May evening, in the midst of all the heated 
discussion which had sprung up round this great poem 
of labour, that Millet sat down and wrote the famous 
letter which has been called his confession of faith. The 
original MS. is now preserved in the British Museum. 

"Barbizon, 30 May, 1863. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have done your commissions here. Pere Robin is very 
much pleased, and assures us that, next to le bon Di'eu, he loves 
no one half so well as he does you." 



Pere Robin was an old soldier who had fought in the 
battles of the first Empire, and was living in want and 



240 



J. F. MILLET 



poverty at Barbizon. Millet took great interest in the 
veteran, and at his request Sensier succeeded in obtaining 
a pension for him from the Government. 

" All this gossip about my Homme d la Houe seems to me very 
strange, and I am grateful to you for reporting it to me. Certainly, 
I am surprised at the ideas which people are so good as to impute 
to me ! I wonder in what Club my critics have ever seen me ! 
They call me a Socialist, but really I might reply with the poor 
commissionnaire from Auvergne, 'They call me a Saint Simonist. 
That is not true, I do not even know what it means.' Is it then 
impossible simply to accept the ideas that come into one's mind, 
at the sight of the man who ' eats bread by the sweat of his brow ' ? 
There are people who say that I see no charms in the country. 
I see much more than charms there — infinite splendours. I see, 
as well as they do, the little flowers of which Christ said : ' I say 
unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like 
one of these.' 

"I see very well the aureoles of the dandelions and the sun 
spreading his glory in the clouds, over the distant worlds. But 
none the less I see down there in the plain the steaming horses 
leading the plough, and in a rocky corner a man quite worn-out, 
whose han has been heard since morning, and who tries to straighten 
himself and take breath for a moment. The drama is surrounded 
with splendour. 

" It is not my invention, and this expression — ' the cry of the 
ground' — was heard long ago. My critics are men of taste and 
instruction, I suppose, but I cannot put myself in their skin, and 
since I have never, in all my life, known anything but the fields, 
I try and say, as best I can, what I saw and felt when I worked 
there. Those who can do this better than I can are fortunate 
people. 

"I must stop, for you know how talkative I become when I 
am once started on this subject. But I must also say how much 
flattered and encouraged I felt by some of the articles which you 
sent me. If by any chance you happen to know their authors, 
please express my satisfaction to them. I hope you will soon come. 
Wish Rousseau good-day for me. 

" Yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



241 



One of the few authors who had dared to take Millet' s 
part in the attacks that were made upon him and his art 
was Theodore Pelloquet, who published a spirited defence 
of V Homme a la Houe in his Journal de V Exposition, and 
stoutly maintained that, whatever might be said, its painter 
was a great and original artist. Millet was so much 
pleased at the sympathetic way in which he wrote of his 
pictures, that he sent him the following letter, a few 
days afterwards 



" Barbizon, June 2, 1863. 
" Monsieur, — 

" I am very much gratified by the manner in which you speak 
of my pictures in the Exhibition. This has given me the more 
pleasure, because of the way in which you discourse upon Art in 
general. You belong to the exceedingly small number of writers 
who believe (all the worse for those who do not !) that Art is a 
language, and that all language is intended for the expression of 
ideas. Say it, and say it over again ! Perhaps it will make some 
one think a little ! If more people shared your belief, there would 
not be so much empty painting and writing. That is called clever- 
ness, and those who practise it are loudly praised. But, in good 
faith, and if it were true cleverness, should it not be employed to 
accomplish good work, and then hide its head modestly behind the 
work ? Is cleverness to open a shop on its own account ? I have read, 
I cannot remember where, ' Woe to the artist who shows his talent 
more than his work.' It would be very ridiculous if the hand were 
greater than the brain. I do not remember the exact words that 
Poussin uses in one of his letters about the trembling of his hand, 
at a time when his head was at the height of its powers, but this 
is the substance of his remark : ' And although the hand is weak, 
it must all the same be the handmaid of the other.' If there were 
more people who shared your belief, they would not devote them- 
selves so resolutely to the task of flattering bad taste and evil 
passions for their own profit, without any thought of the right. As 
Montaigne says so well : ' Instead of naturalizing Art, they make 
Nature artificial.' 

"I should be very glad of a chance of talking over these subjects 

R 



242 



J. F. MILLET 



with you, but as this does not seem likely at present, I will, at the 
risk of wearying you, try and tell you as best I can, certain things 
which are matters of faith with me, and which I should like to 
express clearly in my work. The objects introduced in a picture 
should not appear to be brought together by chance, and for the 
occasion, but should have a necessary and indispensable connection. 
I want the people that I represent to look as if they belonged to 
their place, and as if it would be impossible for them to think of 
being anything else but what they are. A work must be all of 
a piece, and persons and objects must always be there for a pur- 
pose. I wish to say fully and forcibly what is necessary, so much 
so that I think things feebly said had better not be said at all, 
since they are, as it were, spoilt and robbed of their charm. But 
I have the greatest horror of useless accessories, however brilliant 
they may be. These things only serve to distract and weaken the 
general effect. It is not so much the nature of the subjects re- 
presented, as the longing of the artist to represent them which 
produces the beautiful, and this longing in itself creates the de- 
gree of power with which his task is accomplished. One may say 
that everything is beautiful in its own time and place, and on the 
other hand that nothing can be beautiful out of its right place and 
season. There must be no weakening of character. Let Apollo 
be Apollo and Socrates remain Socrates. Do not let us try to 
combine the two; they would both lose in the process. Which 
is the handsomest — a straight tree, or a crooked one? The one 
that we find in its place. I conclude therefore that the beautiful 
is the suitable. 

"This principle 'is capable of infinite development, and might 
be proved by endless examples. It must, of course, be understood 
that I am not speaking of absolute beauty, for I do not know 
what that is, and it has always seemed to me the vainest of delusions. 
I think that people who devote themselves to that idea only do 
so because they have no eyes for the beauty of natural objects. 
They are buried in the contemplation of the art of the past, and 
do not see that Nature is rich enough to supply all needs. Good 
souls ! they are poetic without being poets. Character ! that is 
the real thing ! Vasari tells us that Baccio Bandinelli made a figure 
intended to represent Eve, but that as he advanced with his work, 
he found his statue a little too slender for the part of Eve. Ac- 
cordingly he contented himself with giving her the attributes of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



243 



Ceres, and Eve was transformed into Ceres ! We can no doubt 
admit, that since Bandinelli was a clever man, his figure may have 
been superbly modelled and marked with great scientific knowledge. 
But all that could not give the statue a decided character, or pre- 
vent it from being a very contemptible work. It was neither fish, 
flesh, nor fowl. 

" Forgive me, sir, for having written at such length, and perhaps 
said so little ; but allow me to add that if you should ever happen 
to be travelling in the environs of Barbizon, I hope you will be 
so good as to stop at my house for a moment. 

"J. F. Millet." 

This letter, which contains so full and remarkable a 
statement of the painter's principles, was published by 
M. Pelloquet in the Moniteur de Calvados^ together with 
a sonnet addressed to Millet by a friend of the artist 
Troyon, a retired officer named Lejosne, who hailed the 
painter of the Semeur and V Homme a la Houe as the 
Dante of peasants and the Michelangelo of rustic art. 

These fresh tokens of sympathy and appreciation en- 
couraged Millet, but as usual he was in need of funds, 
and was obliged to raise money to satisfy his creditors. 
On the 5th of June, 1863, he wrote to Sensier : 



" To-night I am going to send you two drawings, which you will 
no doubt receive to-morrow morning. I do not know if they are 
likely to be popular. One is The Mill, which I was about to begin 
when you left Barbizon. The other is a very literal transcript of a 
place in my own country. I do not say it is the better for that, 
but at least I think it is a rare kind of landscape. Nor do I think 
The Mill is by any means an ordinary subject. You must tell me 
what you think of them. Have you been able to sell the two last ? 
And will these sell ? Without making any actual complaint as to 
our condition, I must confess to you that we are again on the verge 

of trouble. I fear scandal of all kinds while Madame F is here. 

We live on a volcano ! I have said enough to make you understand 
what I mean, since you are well acquainted with the intricacies of 
the seraglio. But in point of fact, what am I to do ? I can only 



244 



J. F. MILLET 



work, but that will not suffice! ... We wish you all good 

health. 

"J. F. Millet. 

" P.S.— I have written to Pelloquet." 

The difficulty which Millet found in carrying out the 
terms of his contract with M. Blanc weighed heavily 
upon him at that moment. The three years during which 
he had bound himself to work for the dealer had expired 
in the preceding March, and no more payments were 
due to him ; but he was still considerably in his employer's 
debt. The three pictures which appeared in that year's 
Salon were described in the catalogue as the property 
of M. E. Blanc, who disposed of them all before long. 
V Homme a la Houe was sold to a Belgian collector, and 
has remained in Brussels ever since. The Cardeuse, which 
Pelloquet pronounced worthy of a place by the side of 
Raphael and Andrea del Sarto's Madonnas, found its way 
to America. But still Millet remained in the dealer's 
debt, and M. Blanc clamoured for more pictures. Two 
letters of August, 1863, show the disagreeable state of 
affairs in which this unfortunate contract had involved 
the painter, and the unpleasant terms on which he found 
himself with his dealer. 



"Barbizon, 10 August, 1863. 
"M. Blanc,— 

" If you had simply said that I did not send you pictures 
enough, or anything else of that kind, your reproaches would be more 
reasonable than those which you now make. Because the picture 
that I have sent does not please you, you draw hasty conclusions, 
which I must say are really outrageous. First of all, and naturally 
enough, you have seen it but a very short time ; and it seems to me 
that you were too much in a hurry in pronouncing it to be a work 
knocked off by a student to make up for lost time. Perhaps this 
picture is something more than that. From this hurried judgment you 
pass at one bound to bring charges against me, and accuse me of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



245 



saying, ' It is good enough for him ; I always do enough for him,' 
etc. Really these suggestions of yours are purely gratuitous. What 
reasons have you for making them ? If it should happen that, after 
a time, this picture should appear less objectionable in your eyes, 
will it not pain you to have said such things? I think there is 
always time enough to make such charges later, and that they should 
not be made at so early a stage. Tell me, then, that you uttered 
them thoughtlessly, and that I may consider them as coming from 
a man who was out of temper, and as having no serious meaning. 
I can hardly believe that a reflecting man, such as you are, can 
seriously think so badly of me. In any case I need your assurance 
one way or the other before I can definitely believe what you have 
said." 



M. Blanc's reply apparently failed to satisfy Millet's 
injured feelings, and in a second letter he resumes the 
contention, and defends himself from the imputation of 
sending the dealer bad work and keeping his best pictures 
for other patrons, which seems to have been the charge 
brought against him. 

" 23 August, 1863. 
"M. Blanc,— 

" You know that I am never offended at any criticism, however 
severe it may be, which has for its sole object the merits of a work 
of art. This, I think, would never really offend me. What pained 
me in your letter was the intention which you imputed to me of 
thinking anything good enough to send you. As you ask me to 
let you have your own words, here they are : ' In seeing this canvas, 
I am reminded of my childhood and the tasks which I knocked off 
in haste to make up for lost time.' Further on, you say that I ought 
to remember who had placed the conditions and power of creation 
in your hands — ' Time, care and suffering, that is labour? Again 
you say : ' // is impossible for me to help saying that I am not satis- 
fied with you? And you end up with the words, 'I remain always 
your good friend,' although I see clearly that you are not any longer 
my friend at all. 

" If this is what you wish, I am ready to give you my word of 
honour that I have not made any painting, small or large, for any 



246 



J. F. MILLET 



one save yourself — The Woman Bathing, which you have lately 
received, and a very much more important picture on which I am 
now engaged, A Shepherdess and her Flock. My spare time has 
been employed, as I told you when I was in Paris, in making 
drawings, and under such conditions that they will not get into 
circulation. As I have no other resources by which I can gain 
my bread, I am forced to do this, since in order to work one must 
live. It is also very easy to imagine that the time which I devote 
to these tasks cannot be spent in your service. The price of the 
Woman Bathing is 800 francs. Be well assured, M. Blanc, that 
I never do things in the dark, and accept my salutations. 

"J. F. Millet." 

Happily the period of his bondage was almost ended. 
Before long his debt to M. Blanc was paid off, and he 
found himself released from the contract which had of 
late weighed upon him so heavily. He made use of his 
recovered freedom to work on the Shepherdess, which had 
been ordered by a new patron, M. Tesse, and devoted his 
leisure hours to the study of Burns and Theocritus. He 
had lately received copies of these poets, in a French 
translation, from a young author, M. Chassaing, an ardent 
and intelligent admirer of his works, who had recently 
made his acquaintance. 

The three following letters are addressed to this new 
friend : 

" Barbizon, 20 July, 1863. 
" Monsieur, — 

" I have received the two volumes which you have sent me, 
Theocritus and Robert Burns, and am doubly grateful to you, both 
for the kindness of your thought and for the pleasure which the 
works themselves have given me. First of all, I must tell you, I 
seized upon Theocritus and did not let him go until I had devoured 
his poems. There is a naif and peculiarly attractive charm about 
them that is hardly to be found, to my mind, in the same degree 
in Virgil. It is when I take the text, word for word, that I enjoy 
it the most. I understand that much better than the translation 
at the end. Why are not words used for description, instead of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



247 



making them serve merely to weaken the meaning under the cloak 
of a sonorous obscurity, or else a pretence at conciseness ? If I 
could talk this over with you, I might succeed in making you under- 
stand what I mean ; but I know it is a mistake to start a discussion 
of this kind in a letter. I will, however, try and give you a little 
instance of what I mean. 

" In the first idyll, on the vase adorned with all kinds of sculp- 
tures, you see, amongst other things, a vine loaded with ripe grapes, 
guarded by a lad sitting on a fence. On either side are two foxes. 
One goes up and down the rows devouring the grapes. Does not 
this expression, 'goes up and down the rozvs,' help you to see the 
way in which the vines are planted ? Does it not make the scene 
actually visible, and do you not see the fox trotting up and down 
between the rows, going from one to the other ? There is a true 
bit of painting — a living image ! You see the thing before you. 
But in the translation this living image, it seems to me, is so much 
weakened that one might read the passage without being struck by 
its force : ' Two foxes — one penetrates into the vineyard and devours 
the grapes. . . .' O translator, it is not enough to know Greek ; 
you should also have seen a vineyard, in order to understand the 
truth of your poet's image and to render it exactly ! And so on 
through it all. But I come back to that. I cannot see the fox 
trotting up and down the rows of vines in the translator's vineyard. 
But I must stop — my paper has come to an end. 

" I must, however, add that Burns pleases me infinitely. He has 
his own special flavour ; he smacks of the soil. We will talk of him 
soon, I hope. My friend Sensier writes that you have been to see 
him. He tells me that he will very soon have some proofs taken 
of my plates, and that he is only waiting for some particular solution 
which you may perhaps be able to help him to obtain. That is 
what he says. For my part, I am working hard, and the reading 
of Theocritus shows me every day more and more that we are never 
so truly Greek as when we are simply painting our own impressions, 
no matter where we have received them ; and Burns teaches me the 
same. They make me wish more ardently than ever to express 
certain things which belong to my own home, the old home where 
I used to live. 

" Once more, dear sir, accept my thanks ; and if it is at all 
possible, come here now and then, and spend a day with me. 

" J. F. Millet." 



248 



J. F. MILLET 



M. Chassaing was profoundly impressed by the truth 
and originality of the remarks which Millet made, not 
only upon Theocritus and Burns, but also upon Dante 
and Shakspeare. The painter was already familiar with 
both these poets, and had taught himself sufficient Italian 
to read the Divina Commedia in the original. His friend 
now lent him interleaved editions of these poets, begging 
him to let him see the notes which he made upon them. 
He also sent him the writings of several modern French 
authors, all of which Millet devoured with his usual eager- 
ness. And he himself paid repeated visits to Barbizon, 
and spent many pleasant hours in conversation with this 
earnest and thoughtful artist, who had for him so rare 
an attraction. 

On the 4th of August Millet writes to him : 

"Dear Sir,— 

" I am exceedingly glad to hear that you are soon coming here, 
for two reasons : I shall have the pleasure of seeing you, and shall 
be able to tell you more of my thoughts in five minutes' conversation 
than I could in two hours' writing. Here I will only say that it is 
long since I have read anything of such fine quality in a modern 
author. Even if I were capable of doing it, I would not try to 
measure him (Victor Hugo) with Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, etc.; 
but I am persuaded, whatever his exact height may be, he is none 
the less a member of their family. We must talk about him. It 
is quite worth while. And we will also talk of the little volume au 
village, which you sent with Mireio. I will say no more here, for 
talking is better than writing. Believe me when I say that your visit 
will give me the greatest pleasure, and receive my thanks before- 
hand. 

"J. F. Millet." 



"Barbizon, October 14, 1863. 
"Monsieur Chassaing, — 

"The pleasure which you have given me in sending me 
Shakspeare is very great, both because of your kind intention, 
which I appreciate warmly, and also because it would have been 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



249 



impossible to choose anything that I like better. But, as there 
is no pleasure without pain, one thing distresses me, and that is 
the trouble and expense to which you put yourself on my account : 
I am quite overwhelmed and ashamed at the thought. And to 
think that this is not all, and that Dante is to follow Shak- 
speare ! If the work of interleaving the Dante is not begun, I 
beg you not to go to that expense, as I owe you too much 
already. But I will certainly not return Shakspeare to undergo 
a similar operation. I like him as he is, and am not going to 
part from him ! Once more, I am profoundly touched with all 
that you have done for me. I am afraid my poor woodcuts are 
giving you a great deal of trouble, by what Sensier tells me. Try 
and make Delatre and Bracquemond take a few impressions by 
hand. You have no doubt talked this over with Sensier, and 
have already arrived at some decision. If it is possible, come 
and spend a few more minutes with us before you leave this 
country for good. Arrange your affairs so as to manage this, if 
it is not impossible. I am already reckoning on your coming. 
But in any case, accept my very cordial salutations, with the best 
wishes of my whole family and myself, that you may succeed in 
all your undertakings, and meet with as few scratches as possible 
from the briars along the roadside. 

"J. F. Millet." 

One of Millet's plans, into which M. Chassaing entered 
warmly, was his wish to illustrate the idylls of Theo- 
critus. The Sicilian poet's pastoral fancies had fascinated 
his imagination, and he was seriously thinking of pub- 
lishing a series of engravings on subjects taken from the 
idylls. M. Chassaing paid him a flying visit in Novem- 
ber, and listened with the keenest interest to his ideas on 
the subject. 

On the 8th of November, 1863, Millet wrote to Sensier : 



" M. Chassaing arrived here on Thursday morning and stayed 
till Friday evening, when he left by the seven o'clock train. We 
have made an attempt at a wood-cut, the Little Digger, that you 
know, and the result is very good. I will slip in a few proofs in 



250 



J. F. MILLET 



the first parcel that I send. M. Chassaing thinks that the best 
plan for the Theocritus would be to offer a publisher one of the 
idylls ready printed and illustrated, such as would make a volume 
of the work. He thinks that no publisher would be able to re- 
sist the sight, but would be anxious to continue the work. He 
told me that he and his friend Rollin would unite to provide the 
necessary funds. He explained his methods a little to me, but 
the devil take me ! if I can remember those kind of things, which 
I do not even understand when I hear them explained ! Still 
he thinks that the cost of printing and engraving would not be 
anything very enormous, and that we should at least have the one 
idyll, if we could not afford to continue the publication. He 
will no doubt write to you, and you can judge if his idea is at 
all practicable. In any case, I am already drawing compositions 
for the first idyll : Thyrsis and a goat-herd sitting by the cave of 
Pan, Thyrsis playing the syrinx while the other listens. Then 
there is a vase with sculptured subjects which I shall reproduce 
in realistic fashion : a beautiful woman, a divine form, over whom 
two men are quarrelling ; an aged man fishing with a net in the 
sea from the top of a rock ; a child seated on a wall to keep 
watch over a vineyard, but who is so intent on making a snare 
of straws to catch grasshoppers that he does not see two foxes, 
one of which eats his breakfast, while the other devours the 
finest grapes in the vineyard. Such are the three subjects of the 
vase. There remains the death of Daphne, the subject which 
Thyrsis sings to the music of his flute, and at whose death 
Hermes, Venus, Priapus, the goat- herds and shepherds, are all 
present. Five subjects in all, and none of the five can well be 
left out. But all of the idylls would not require so many illus- 
trations. One subject, or two at most, would be enough for the 
greater part of them. 

" Yet another important thing I have to mention ! I am happy, 
exceedingly happy, to hear how well you have managed in dis- 
posing of all three of my drawings. All the same, if you could 
obtain another loan of 1,000 francs, by successive instalments, 
that would give me time to get on with my work without anxieties 
for some time to come — in the first place, M. Tesse's Shepherdess 
and The Calf, and then my etching, Allant Travailler. I am 
in the act of simplifying the composition. Consider if my plan 
is practicable or not. If it is, I shall think it famous ! " 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



25 1 



Whatever Sensier thought of Millet's plan for raising 
money, he was quite decided that M. Chassaing's idea of 
illustrating Theocritus was altogether impracticable. No 
publisher in Paris, he replied, would listen to such a 
suggestion. Millet reluctantly abandoned his intention, 
and devoted his whole time and thought to his pictures 
for next year's Salon. One was The New-born Calf, the 
other, the life-size figure of a young shepherdess knitting, 
as she leads her flock home in the gloaming. 



252 



J. F. MILLET 



XIV 



1864 

EARLY in 1864, Millet's constant friend, Alfred 
Feydeau, the architect, asked him to paint four 
large subjects for the decoration of a dining-room in a 
house that he had lately built for a Colmar merchant in 
the Boulevard Haussmann. These paintings were to re- 
present the Four Seasons. Spring and Summer were to 
occupy the walls; Winter was to be set in a recess 
above the mantel-piece ; and Autumn was to adorn an 
octagonal space in the centre of the ceiling. 

The idea pleased Millet, who had never received so 
important a commission before, and whose recent read- 
ings from Theocritus had inspired him with classical 
fancies. But, as usual, there were delays and difficulties 
in the matter, and it was some time before the definite 
order was given. 

The first letter we find on the subject is dated January 
23, 1864 : 



" My dear Sensier, — 

"I have not by any means refused the work of decoration 
of which you spoke. I merely told Feydeau that, considering 
the enormous work it would entail, I thought that the price ought 
to be from twenty-five to thirty thousand francs. I said that on 
the spur of the moment, and only considering the importance of 
the compositions which I had already sketched out in my mind's 
eye, without reflecting if this price or another were likely to be 
fixed ; and indeed this would not be too high a price if you re- 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



253 



member that these decorations will be placed close to the eyes of 
the spectator, and must therefore be as highly finished as pictures. 
If the probable price had been named to me at first, I should 
have composed some designs of a much simpler description, and 
should have seen how I could have executed them in a more 
rapfd manner. The prices which I mentioned to Feydeau were 
merely a suggestion, and by no means an absolute demand. On 
the contrary, I only want advice on a subject in which I do not 
see my way clearly, since it is the first work of the kind which 
I have ever had to do. On the other hand, it is impossible for 
me to disturb myself about a thing which has been so vaguely 
mentioned, all the more since, as you know, I must be prepared 
to meet the end of the month, and my only resource is to finish 
M. Tesse's picture. God knows I have little enough time for 
that, especially if I continue as ailing as I have been for some 
time past. I do not mean to complain, — far from it, — but I 
reason out the thing, and still think that the proposal has not 
been definitely made. 

"Feydeau told me that he would not recommend me before 
he knew my charges, and that what he said was by no means 
positive, since he had little influence with his client, who un- 
fortunately takes counsel of all manner of persons, but that he 
would do his best to bring this about. In a second letter, he 
repeats that he has not yet mentioned my name, and wishes first 
of all to know my prices, so that there should be no mistake, 
etc. 

" I tell you this, in order that you may not think I have been 
too fastidious, nor yet that I have tried to make a good bargain 
of the job. The only idea which came to my mind when you 
mentioned it was the pleasure it would be (if the plan prospered) 
to be able to design these compositions on a large scale, and my 
imagination at once began to start off on that track. But I 
hope nothing that I have said can make you accuse me of 
foolish and extravagant pretensions. I am very sorry I have not 
been able to talk it all over with you, for you might have ex- 
plained what I really think. As for Faustin Besson, when I 
mentioned him, it was only with the intention of showing that 
it is hardly likely persons who think of employing him should 
dream of giving me the same work. 

" M. Tesse's picture {La Bergere) is finished, but you know 



254 



J. F. MILLET 



what the last days at a work of this kind always are. Fresh 
scruples arise, and I try hard to strengthen the subject, and to 
express my idea with my whole might and main. I have suffered 
very much lately, both by day and by night. All this makes me 
ask you this — Would it be possible to make M. Tesse under- 
stand that, since I have these scruples, and that it is, after all, 
as much in his interest as in my own and for the good of his 
picture, I should like to keep it until the first week in February, 
so as to look at it again at my leisure ? " 



M. Tesse seems to have agreed to his request, and the 
painter was allowed to keep his Shepherdess for another 
fortnight. Four days later he writes again, saying that 
he has heard no more from Feydeau, and therefore con- 
cludes the thing to be at an end. But he was wrong, as 
the sequel proved. 

" Barbizon, 27 January, 1864. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I must begin by thanking you for the trouble which I 
have given you as to the request which I made to M. Tesse, for 
I imagine that it was not an easy task. When you have to do 
with an amateur, the result is never certain. 

"I must really see the exhibition of Delacroix's works before 
his sale. Please tell me on which day it is to be held. 

" When you hear who is to do the decorations of Feydeau's 
hall, let me know who is chosen and what is the price fixed. I 
still think I might have found some designs which would not 
have been ill-suited to the occasion ! But my regret cannot be 
so great as if any proposals had actually been made to me. The 
weather is as dark as if it were the end of the world. 

" I am glad you approve of my two last daubs. Advise the 
gentleman not to hide half of them with the frames. They really 
ought not to be covered up at all ; but, if necessary, strips should 
be nailed on to the edge of the canvas. Our best love to you 
all." 

"Barbizon, 30 January, 1864. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Many thanks for the 100 francs, which reached me at the 
same time as a letter from M. Tesse enclosing 300 more. The 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 255 

post-mistress was struck dumb with wonder when she saw how 
much money I received. She said to me when I arrived, 
' Two letters, two good letters at a time ! ' They certainly are 
good letters. Rousseau is going to Paris, and starts at one 
o'clock to-day. How dark it was yesterday ! To-day it is light, 
and I am setting to work as quickly as possible. Tell me all the 
news." 

The next intimation which Millet received from Feydeau 
was sufficiently encouraging to make him sketch out the 
subjects which he had planned for the decoration of 
the room in question, and to apply for permission to 
visit Fontainebleau and study the frescoes with which 
Rosso and Primaticcio had adorned the halls of Francis 
the First's stately palace. But at the same moment he 
was depressed by the news that a collector who owned 
several of his pictures had sold them all to the dealer 
Petit. This sense of the fickleness of fortune drew from 
him a touching burst of affection towards the friend whom 
he had trusted through all the changes and chances 
of his troubled life. 

" Barbizon, 5 February, 1864. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" I am very glad to hear what you tell me. There can be 
no doubt that now my pictures belong to Petit, it is his interest 
to praise them. He has already sold some of them, and Rousseau 
told me yesterday that a man whom he knows has bought three or 
four. The only satisfaction which this can give me is the sense 
that in future there will be a possibility of life becoming a little more 
easy. But, on the other hand, this has stirred up anew all the 
sorrows which lie buried deep down in my heart. I ask myself, Why 
have I been so long attacked on all sides to gain a little praise 
in the end ? And then, when a good chance comes, nothing will 
prevent them from throwing me aside like a dirty stocking ! This 
treatment is common enough, I know, and what I say here is only 
the result of my reflections on the vanity of those who build a 
monument on these unstable foundations. Once more we must be 



2s6 



J. F. MILLET 



satisfied, very well satisfied with the prospect of living more 
comfortably in future, but all the same we must not forget that we 
are surrounded with snares. 

" One of these days I want to tell you the consolations that I 
have had from time to time in the midst of my sorrows, and leave 
you an acknowledgment written as best I can, of the good which 
you have done me. I want you to feel how well I know that you 
have been, if not my only helper, at least the chief one that I 
have had. Should the sheep ever come over in a flock to my 
side, I could only consider that among things vana et falsa. 

" M. Moureau has been here. I am to make him seven 
drawings for 1,000 francs, and from the end of April he is going 
to give me 200 francs at the end of each month until the whole 
sum is paid off. I did not mention the subject of your letter. 
He was here when it arrived. I am glad to hear that you have 
been asked for a drawing. 

" I have not yet heard anything of my permit for Fontainebleau. 
If you see Feuardent, ask him if he has applied for it. I went 
there a few days ago as a visitor, and satisfied myself that there 
were many interesting things to examine at leisure. I renew my 
persecution and clamour for a permit. The work I have pre- 
pared for the ceiling is not yet upon canvas, but the subject 
of my composition is chosen, and I am going to begin directly. 
I am only waiting for a fresh supply of colours. Do not tell 
any one that I have not yet painted the sketch for the ceiling. 
In point of fact the work is more advanced than if I had begun 
with that. Feuardent has sent me two catalogues of the Pourtales 
sale, but not that of the pictures. 

"J. F. Millet." 

The next letter announces the final completion of M. 
Tesse's Shepherdess. This beautiful picture, the most 
famous of all his Bergeres, had filled his time and 
thoughts for the last six months. Again and again he 
had delayed its completion and had begged leave to 
keep it a little longer. Now the last touches were given, 
and he could no longer reasonably keep it back from 
the impatient owner. Yet when it came to the point, his 
courage failed him, and he was filled with doubt and 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



257 



misgiving. What will M. Tesse think of it ? Will he be 
satisfied with his long-expected purchase, or will he 
look at it with critical eyes and repent of his bargain? 
Poor Millet was so much accustomed to hear disparag- 
ing remarks on his works, he was so painfully conscious 
of his failure to reach the ideal after which he strove, 
that he was never satisfied even when he had painted 
a masterpiece. And so he writes diffidently to Sensier, 
begging him to come to his help and encourage M. Tesse 
to look favourably upon the picture which he was send- 
ing him : 

" Barbizon, February 12, 1864. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" To-morrow, Saturday the r^th, I shall give Lejosne M. Tesse's 
picture to go by the six o'clock train in the evening. I shall be 
very much obliged if you will go and see him on Sunday morning 
and cheer him up, if his heart fails him too much at the sight of 
my picture. Who can tell how it will strike him ? Try and make 
him look on it from some distance, as I think that it depends a 
good deal upon the general effect. If, by chance, he offers to give 
you the rest of the money, please take it and when you have kept 
back 200 francs, send me the rest here, addressed either to M. 
or Madame Millet. If M. Tesse says that he is going to send it 
to me, tell him to address it as I have said, for I shall probably 
come to Paris for the Delacroix exhibition, and do not wish my 
wife to have any difficulty in getting the money in my absence. 
The 200 francs which I tell you to keep back are, the one-half for 
Lecarpentier, notary at Sainte Croix, the other half for a payment 
that I have to make in Paris. Rousseau will no doubt come with 
me to see the Delacroix pictures. I shall also probably bring 
with me Louise, my daughter, to consult a doctor about an eruption 
on her face. There is nothing else to say, since we shall soon be 
able to talk, excepting perhaps to beg of you once more to go to 
the help of M. Tesse in case of a sudden fainting fit ! Good-bye 
and good health to you all. 

"J. F. Millet." 



The exhibition of Delacroix's works opened on the 16th 

s 



25§ 



J. F. MILLET 



of February. Millet was deeply stirred by the power of 
this master whom he had long admired and whose great- 
ness was now recognised by all but a few envious rivals 
or carping critics. But his indignation was excited by 
the attacks which were made upon the dead master, and 
he defended him repeatedly both in his letters and con- 
versation. He also succeeded in buying as many as fifty 
of Delacroix's sketches at the sale which followed, and 
kept them among his most precious treasures. On the 
4th of March he writes to Sensier: 

" I have actually received a letter from Feydeau, in which he 
says that he is trying to get me the order for the decorations of the 
hotel in the Boulevard Haussmann. I hope that he may succeed. 

"Shall I, like Lazarus, be able to pick up some of the crumbs 
which fall from your table at the Delacroix sale ? I am very glad 
to hear that you have got the Lara, which is a very fine thing. I 
remember the drawing of Ovid among the Scythians which hung on 
a screen in the middle of the hall, between the Socrates and the 
Spartan Woman. If that is the one about which you ask my 
advice, I think it very fine. When I come to Paris, I must see your 
purchases. But try and get me a sketch. So Burty is going to 
make facsimiles of the album that he has bought. It will be a 
very interesting volume. Who has bought the lithographic stones 
of the Goetz ? Is it M. Robert ? In the end our poor Delacroix 
seems to have taken all Paris by storm ! The sentences which you 
discovered on the drawings are very true. Tillot, who came last 
night, also told me about the remarkable success of the pen-and-ink 
drawings. 

" I am glad to hear what you tell me of Petit's exhibition in 
the Rue de Choiseul. I told Rousseau the part that concerned 
him, and he was much pleased. I am working like a slave to finish 
my Calf, but as the days are going by, I must rush to work and 
end my letter here. The weather is unsettled and even rainy. I 
will attend to your garden." 



The next letter alludes to a curious little disagreement 
which had arisen between Rousseau and his friends, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



259 



about some Japanese prints belonging to Sensier, which 
Millet had brought back from Paris. A perfect frenzy 
for the art of Japan had lately seized the great land- 
scape-painter. He bought up all the specimens of 
Japanese work on which he could lay hands, and dis- 
tressed his best friends by his attempts to introduce 
Japanese skies and effects into his own pictures. On 
this occasion his jealousy seems to have been aroused by 
the sight of Sensier's recent acquisitions, and he de- 
nounced both him and Millet in no measured language. 
Upon this Millet wrote, full of concern, to Sensier: 

"Barbizon, March 16, 1864. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" What a cursed wind this is that blows upon us from Japan ! 
I too have almost had a very disagreeable affair with Rousseau 
about the prints which I brought back from Paris. Until you can 
tell me what really happened between you and Rousseau, please 
believe that I have not played you any dirty tricks. I want to clear 
up this, when I next come to Paris, for I should be the most miserable 
of men for the rest of my life, if for one cause or another, the least 
cloud should arise between us. I leave my work to tell you this. 
If you do not hear from me before then, come on Sunday to 
Rousseau's and see my picture before it starts. 

"J. F. Millet." 

Happily Rousseau's anger did not last long, and the 
passing cloud was soon cleared away. Meanwhile Fey- 
deau had not forgotten his promise, and on the 4th of 
April Millet was able to tell Sensier that he had at 
length received the long-delayed commission: 



" I was exceedingly happy to hear your good news about the 
order, which has been confirmed to-day by a letter from Feydeau. 
I feel as happy as if it were altogether a surprise, for really I have 
been so little accustomed to things of this kind, that although I 
knew the thing was not impossible, I did not dare count upon it. 
Laus Deo ! I must now do my best in the interval that is allowed 



260 



J. F. MILLET 



me, and which I must get Feydeau to extend as far as possible. 
A great deal of time has been already wasted. I must mention this 
to Feydeau in writing; but please say the same to him too, for it is 
very important. He tells me that he is going to send me the exact 
dimensions of the panels, that I may begin my compositions on the 
proper scale, and bring them to Paris as soon as they are sufficiently 
advanced. I do not therefore know when I shall come to Paris, 
but it will be tolerably soon, for I do not mean to pledge myself 
absolutely to keep to my designs without the right of modifying 
them. 

"Now the bear is actually killed, please look about to find me 
some cultivated epicures — people who enjoy the pleasures of the 
table and all that belongs to it. They may perhaps help to give 
me some suggestions for the decoration of the ceiling. And then 
are there any old poets who have celebrated these themes ? I know 
Anacreon and Horace have, and must read them again, but perhaps 
there are others as well. In fact, what have the poets of all ages 
said on the subject ? 

"You have my full permission to give or not give my letter to 
Figaro. You are free to do exactly as you like. In any case you 
can show it to any one who ought to see it, and perhaps it might 
be as well for it to appear in Figaro before the Exhibition, on 
account of Jean Rousseau, whose mouth might then be stopped." 

The letter to which Millet alludes was his famous Credo 
of May 30th, 1863, which Sensier had asked his leave to 
publish, and which appeared in the journal of L'Autographe, 
during the summer, together with a sketch from Millet's 
pen. 



"I am very glad," he continues, "to have had a talk with 
Castagnary [one of the younger critics who understood Millet's aims] 
— and especially as it came about quite by accident on my part, and 
that he had already written to me. I think that he was a good 
deal moved. He took my hands in his own several times, and 
said how much he regretted that he had not met me before, and 
that he looked upon me as another Palissy. Yes, my dear Sensier ! 
Well, I cannot repeat all he said here, but I will tell you some day. 
He ended by taking me upstairs to show me a pamphlet on the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



26l 



Salon of 1857, which was his first work, and wrote upon it, A 
Franfois Millet, and below, Et nunc et semper, signed with his 
name. It is a pledge of his good faith. He is coming here for 
a few days, in order that we may talk everything over. 

" When I got home at midnight the other day, my wife told me 
that M. Pelloquet had been here to see me. He waited two days, 
and left the very morning of my return. He was in despair at not 
seeing me, because he had come here on purpose, he said, and 
felt inclined to tear out his hair with 'rage.' He left his card. 
He was staying, I believe, with Luniot, and intends to return in 
three or four days. A Belgian artist, M. Louis Evenepoel, was 
with him. Since his address was on his card, I wrote to him 
begging him to tell M. Pelloquet how vexed I was to have missed 
him, and asking him, in case he came back, to let me know, so 
that I might be at home. I am very sorry not to have been here, 
but on the other hand, as he is already on our side, it was more 
important that I should meet Castagnary, so I am not sorry to 
have stayed in Paris one more day. If I had left, as I intended, 
the day before, I should have found Pelloquet, but I expect I shall 
see him again. And now that he has gone out of his way to see 
me, nothing need prevent my going to call upon him in Paris, 
and indeed it would only be fair. 

" His visit with a companion has reminded me that I have 
no paintings here to show, and if by chance an intending purchaser 
were to come here, he would see nothing which would encourage him 
to order a picture. So I have thought that I had perhaps better 
set a thing or two going ; but if I do this, it will necessarily delay 
the drawings. Still it is very vexatious to have nothing to show, 
and it will be still more so, if my pictures in the Salon should 
happen to attract notice, and bring new visitors to Barbizon. What 
do you think of it ? I will do some pen-and-ink sketches and 
send them to you, for we have not a penny left, and we are worried 
on all sides for money in a very annoying manner. You will see 
if it is possible to sell one or two of these. My wife is suffering 
from a violent pain in her liver. I have had one headache already, 
and I am hatching at least one other. 

"J. F. Millet." 

A fortnight later he writes again, this time to say- 
that he is bringing the drawings in question : 



262 



J. F. MILLET 



"Barbizori, April 19. 

" I shall start for Paris with you on Sunday, my dear Sensier, 
bringing the three dinners that I have to sell, three that is to say 
out of the four, since you assure me that the one of children 
eating is already disposed of. I shall not be present at the open- 
ing of the Salon. All the same, remember to give me the informa- 
tion that I require. Since I appear to be doomed to play the 
part of the disagreeable man, here is a very tiresome question : 
Would it be possible for me to have 100 francs in advance for 
the drawing which you asked me to make for a friend of yours ? If 
you can, bring me the 100 francs on Saturday, or if possible send 
them before then, which would be better still. I need not give 
you particulars of the anxieties with which I am overwhelmed, and 
will only say that I am going to plunge into work . . . 

" Can I at length exclaim, ' The order has come ! ' as the com- 
panions of ./Eneas cried, Italiam ! Italiam ! At least it would be a 
friendly rock, where I might take shelter for awhile, before I set 
out again on the perilous seas. 

"J. F. Millet." 



These last words probably refer to the terms of the 
commission for the panels of the house on the Boule- 
vard Haussmann, which were to be finally arranged 
when Millet brought his designs to Paris. Happily the 
sketches which he had made in pastel met with the 
approval of Feydeau and his employer, M. Thomas, and 
Millet was able to continue the work without further 
delay. 

Meanwhile the Salon opened on the first of May, and 
Millet's Bergdre was hailed with general enthusiasm. 
This picture, which had cost him so many anxious days 
and sleepless nights, is in reality one of the finest which 
he ever painted. Nowhere else is his colour so rich and 
glowing, nowhere else, saving it may be in the Angelus, 
is the effect of evening light so admirably rendered. A 
young girl with a pure and lovely face and gentle ex- 
pression is seen leading her flock home in the quiet 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



263 



evening, knitting as she rests for a moment on her staff. 
Her skirt is blue, the cap on her head is bright red, and 
the dying rays of the sunset turn her cloak to a deep 
golden brown. The sky is dark overhead, but the radiant 
glow of sunset breaks through the clouds and lights up 
the streaks of green and yellow and russet in the fields, 
the long line of low blue hills in the distance, and the 
daisies and dandelions in the short grass at her feet. 
The faithful dog at her side keeps a watchful eye on 
the sheep behind her, while, lost in dreams, she forgets 
the present, and muses of some far-away future. From 
the first the critics were unanimous in their praises. 
Before the month was over, Millet had received an offer 
for the picture from the Government. The Director of 
Fine Arts wrote from the Tuileries, offering the painter 
the sum of 1,500 francs, which was, in point of fact, 
eight hundred less than M. Tesse had already given. 
Millet replied in the following note: 

" Barbizon, 23 May, 1864. 
" Monsieur le Directeur, — 

" You have done me the honour to say that you wish to purchase 
my picture, No. 1,362 in the Exhibition of Fine Arts, at the price of 
1,500 francs. This picture is no longer mine. It was bought at the 
opening of the Exhibition. However flattering your offer may be, it 
is no longer in my power to dispose of this work. This being the 
case, I have the honour to remain, 

" Your very humble and obedient servant, 

"J. F. Millet." 



The painter must have felt some satisfaction in refusing 
this tardy and parsimonious offer from the officials who 
had looked so coldly upon his art for many years. But 
it is at least consoling to reflect, that although Millet's 
Bergere does not belong to the French nation, this beau- 
tiful picture has returned to France, and is now, to- 



264 



J. F. MILLET 



gether with the Angelas and the Pare aux Moutons, in the 
collection of M. Chauchard. While Paris was ringing with 
the fame of Millet's Bergere, and the best critics Tied 
with each other in giving eloquent descriptions of :his 
rustic idyll, his other picture, the New-born Calf, experi- 
enced a very different fate. The subject of this work 
was hardly calculated to meet with approval from Paris 
journalists. Two strong-limbed peasants are seen bearing 
the new-born calf on a stretcher to the door of the farm- 
house, where a group of children await its arrival with 
eager faces. The cow follows behind, licking her young 
with tender anxiety, while the serious expression of the 
bearers, and the ruddy glow on the face of the young 
girl who leads the cow, alike impress us with a deep 
sense of the solemnity of the occasion. But this serious- 
ness was the very thing which excited the scoffs and 
jeers of the critics. M. Millet's peasants, they exclaimed, 
carry the young calf with as much solemnity as if he 
were the bull Apis, or the Blessed Sacrament itself. Millet 
met their attacks in silence, and only defended himself in 
the following letter to his friend : 



"Barbizon, May 3, 1864.. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" As to what Jean Rousseau says of my peasants carrying a 
calf as if it were the Holy Sacrament or the bull Apis, how does 
he expect them to carry it ? If he admits that they carry it well, 
I ask no more, but I should like to tell him that the expression of 
two men carrying a load on a litter naturally depends on the weight 
which rests upon their arms. Thus, if the weight is even, their 
expression will be the same, whether they bear the Ark of the Cove- 
nant or a calf, an ingot of gold or a stone. And even if these men 
were filled with the most profound veneration for their burden, :hey 
would still be subject to the law of gravity, and their expression 
must remain the same. If they were to set it down for a moment 
and then take it up again, the sense of weight alone would make 
itself felt. The more anxious these men are to take care of the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



265 



object they carry, the more cautiously they will walk and keep 
step together ; but in any case they would not fail to observe this 
last condition, as, if not, the fatigue would be doubled. And this 
simple fact is the whole reason of this much-ridiculed solemnity. 
But surely there are plenty of examples to be seen in Paris ; for 
instance, when two commissionnaires are to be seen carrying a chest 
upon a stretcher. Any one can notice how carefully they keep 
step. Let M. Jean Rousseau and one of his friends try to carry a 
similar load, and yet walk in their ordinary way ! Apparently these 
gentlemen are not aware that a false step on their part may upset 
the load ! But I have said enough. . . ." 

The Paris of 1864 was not converted, but when the 
New-born Calf appeared again in the International Exhi- 
bition of 1889, the admirable truth and power of the work 
was recognised by all the critics. 

For the present Millet had to content himself with a 
medal of honour, and with the gratifying evidence of 
his Bergere popularity which he received on all sides. 
Numerous applications were made for leave to reproduce 
this favourite subject in the illustrated journals of the 
day, and the editors of L'Autographe begged the artist 
for another sketch from his pen. On the nth of May 
he wrote to Sensier: 

" I wrote this morning to say that I should come to Paris to- 
night, but I am very unwell, and really not fit to run the risk of 
the journey. Besides, Sunday is the fete here, which would not 
leave me much time, for I must be here that day, and cannot leave 
the house empty when the place is full of people. This being the 
case, I will put off my journey till next week. I will let you know 
the day as soon as I can, and if before that there is anything which 
you wish to tell me, please write. I am going to do the Geese for 
your brother, and the drawing for M. Mame before I start for Paris, 
and then if I can begin some things for Moureau, I will." 



Three days later he sent another letter in reply to a 
missive from Paris: 



266 



J. F. MILLET 



" Barbizon, 14 May, 1864. 
" One of the letters which you forwarded yesterday is from Belly, 
who asks the price of the Bergtre on behalf of a friend. I have 
replied that she belongs to M. Tesse, and enclosed his address. 
The other is from the editor of EUnivers Illustre, asking leave to 
reproduce my picture. Which of the two pictures that I have 
exhibited does he mean? The necessary permission is hardly 
likely to be refused, although the reproduction will probably be 
a bad one. I send a written permission which you will kindly for- 
ward to his address, if you think there is no objection, and leave you 
to decide this. Neither can the new request from U Antographe be 
declined, but I have no record of either of the pictures by me at 
present. Still, I suppose all that is required is a sketch recalling 
the composition. I will make one. While I think of it, I authorize 
you to open any letters that are addressed to me at your house, and 
to answer them as far as you are able. I mention this now we are 
speaking of these subjects. Keep me informed of the latest news. 
Wish Rousseau good-morning. 

" J. F. Millet." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



267 



XV 



I 864- I 865 



THE next year of Millet's life was almost entirely 
devoted to the decorative paintings for M. Thomas's 
dining-room in Paris. The commission pleased him, and 
he was allowed complete freedom, both as to the choice 
of subjects, and style of execution. Before setting to 
work, he consulted the best authorities among ancient 
and modern writers, and examined the wall-paintings 
at Fontainebleau and in the Louvre. But he learnt little 
from either Renaissance or contemporary masters, and 
these symbolic representations of the Seasons were dis- 
tinguished by the same originality as his peasant pic- 
tures. In spite of their allegorical meaning and classic 
draperies, the stamp of the painter's individuality was 
plainly written in every line. 

Spring was a pastoral in the style of his early pastels. 
Here Daphnis and Chloe were seen caressing a nestful 
of young birds, in a woodland landscape, at the foot of 
an altar reared to the god Pan, on the shores of a 
calm blue sea. Summer appeared in the form of Ceres 
crowned with ears of corn, and bearing a sickle in her 
hand as she walks through the golden harvest-field 
where the reapers are at work. Autumn, the subject 
destined to adorn the centre of the ceiling, was a 
Bacchanalian group of joyous vintage-gatherers and 
topers, making merry together. Winter was repre- 
sented by a subject from Anacreon : the boy Love saved 



268 



J. F. MILLET 



from perishing of cold and hunger on a snowy winter's 
night, and fed and warmed by kind peasants in a cottage 
home. 

Millet's letters abound in details as to the progress of 
these paintings, which absorbed his whole time and 
thoughts during many months. The task was a con- 
genial one, and afforded him genuine delight ; but the 
difficulties of executing such large compositions in the 
narrow limits of his Barbizon atelier were great, especi- 
ally in the case of the octagonal ceiling ; and, as before, 
illness and suffering interfered sorely with his work. 
During the course of 1864, he was repeatedly inter- 
rupted by severe headaches, his children were often 
ailing, and worse than all, his wife was seriously ill. 
Madame Millet had given birth to her youngest child, a 
daughter named Marianne, in November, 1863, and had 
never thoroughly recovered from her confinement. She 
behaved with her usual courage and patience, and went 
about her daily duties with her ordinary cheerfulness; 
but the sight of his wife's suffering plunged Millet into 
the deepest dejection. 

On the 6th of June he writes to Sensier, full of the 
importance of the task upon which he was engaged. 
" Be of good cheer," he says to himself on the threshold 
of his labours. And like Fra Angelico of old, he begins 
with a silent lifting up of his heart to the heavenly 
Powers. 



" Thank you for the number of Figaro, which is certainly a very 
curious production, and which, by the way, gives me the wish to 
meet Jean Rousseau, if this could be easily managed. It might 
be of real use. He does not know that things exist and are of 
value only by reason of their fundamental qualities, and he persists 
in believing that the care with which a work is done, even if it is 
without aim or purpose, is sufficient in itself. In short, it would 
be a good thing to make him understand that things only exist by 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



269 



reason of the stuff they contain. Reflect in what way this may be 
managed ! I am going to do a sketch for L Autographe. You can 
tell whoever ought to know. 

" Blanchet has brought the canvases, which are in my atelier now. 
Let us pray Him who gives us the power to work not to leave us 
now, for we have need of all our strength to bring this task to a 
good end. Once more, let us gird up our loins and go forward 
— Viriliter agite et confortetur cor vestrum. 

" Can you find out for me if M. Andrieu (a pupil of Delacroix) 
is in Paris? I should be glad to know, for I am not sufficiently 
acquainted with Haro's colours, and should like to talk to some one 
who has tried them. Find out as soon as you can, and tell me all 
that you hear." 

On the 15th of June he reports progress : 

" My three panels are fairly started, and, as far as I can judge, 
my compositions do not look very bad. I am working with 
common oil paints. I did not venture to embark upon Haro's 
colours, as my first attempt did not altogether answer. I hope in 
another week to be able to judge of the effect of my compositions. 
I am working as hard as a slave, and am entirely buried in my 
task. I work till the end of the day and do not go out at all, for I 
cannot take any rest until I have got the thing well into shape. 
But one of these mornings I must send you the sketch for the 
Autographe. 

"J. F. Millet." 

So all goes on well for a few weeks. The Seasons are 
well under way. His friends are sanguine as to the 
result; his own hopes are high. Then illness comes to 
interrupt him. His wife is laid up, the children are 
ailing. On the 20th of July he writes : 



" Since my return, I have lived in the midst of sick people. 
My wife suffers horribly with her head. Several of the children have 
been very unwell. The greater part of my time has been spent in 
consulting doctors and in nursing the patients. I have seen M. 
Comte and M. Moureau, as you may have heard already. When 



270 



J. F. MILLET 



are you coming? I have also seen Commander Lejosne (the 
author of the sonnet published in the Nain Jaune, in praise of 

Millet)." 

In the midst of his own troubles the sad news of the 
death of Sensier's little daughter, Jeanne, reached him, 
and he put his work aside without delay to hasten to 
his friend. 

"13 August, 1864. 
" I have just heard the news. We start at once, Rousseau 
and I, to see you. Courage, if you can ! 

" Yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 

Millet painted the portrait of the dead child, and did 
his utmost to soothe the grief of her broken-hearted 
parents, with his gentle and thoughtful sympathy. 

That August, the writer, Alexandre Piedagnel, paid a 
visit to Barbizon, and spent several days under Millet's 
roof. He had recently made acquaintance with Rousseau 
and Millet at the house of a friend in Paris, and had 
gladly availed himself of Millet's cordial invitation to 
come and see him at Barbizon. The sight of the painter 
and his family impressed him deeply, and his account 
of his visit is one of the pleasantest pictures that is left 
us of Millet in his home life. 

M. Piedagnel describes the low rambling cottage 
overgrown with the clematis and ivy that Millet would 
never allow to be pruned, the garden full of roses and 
fruit-trees, the honeysuckle arbour and the thicket 
beyond which had been spared at the painter's request. 
He tells us how he found Millet at work with the door 
of his atelier open that he might hear the voices of his 
children at work or play, and how his six-year-old 
daughter, little Jeanne, would lay her finger on her 
lips, and whisper, "Hush! father is working." And he 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



271 



tells us how he sat down to the evening meal with Millet, 
his wife, and all their nine children — from Marie and 
Louise, who were by this time tall and handsome maidens 
of seventeen and eighteen, down to the last baby who was 
being fed by little Jeanne. The simple habits and happy 
cheerfulness of that patriarchal household impressed the 
Paris journalist as deeply as the American artist. He saw 
the grave and silent painter giving his little boys a ride 
au pas, au trot et au galop on his knee, and watched them 
press around to hear his Norman songs and fairy tales. 
Often Millet read aloud while his wife and daughters 
sewed, or else, if the evening was fine, the whole party 
took a ramble in the forest, singing and talking as they 
went, and sat on the grass under the King's Oak, or 
among the rocks of the Bas Breau. 

M. Piedagnel speaks warmly of Madame Millet's 
attention to her children, of her kindness and thoughtful- 
ness for her guests. He realized how much her husband 
depended upon her ready help and sympathy, and the 
constant support which she had been through all his 
trials. " She was at once," he tells us, " the companion of 
his life and the guardian angel of his home." What 
impressed him most in Millet himself, was his wide 
reading and his rare powers of memory. During their 
walks together in the early morning or late evening, he 
would often repeat passages from his favourite authors 
and dwell with unfailing delight upon Virgil and 
Theocritus, Shakspeare and Victor Hugo, Chateau- 
briand and Lamartine. But the Bible, he said, still 
remained his favourite book, and he was never tired 
of studying the illustrations of the big seventeenth century 
folio of the Old Testament which came from Gruchy. 
He had lately been learning Italian in order to read Dante 
in the original, and was constantly quoting lines from the 
Divina Commedia. The originality of his remarks, and 



272 



J. F. MILLET 



the brevity and vigour of his expressions, lent an ad- 
ditional charm to his conversation, whether he pointed out 
the beauties of the forest, or explained his theories of art, 
and his horror of false convention and artificiality. 

At the time of M. Piedagnel's visit to Barbizon, Millet 
had already almost completed three of his Seasons for the 
Paris hotel, but had not yet attacked the ceiling. The 
panel of Spring especially excited M. Piedagnel's admira- 
tion, while he was even more favourably impressed with 
a Norman landscape — a group of cottages with cows feed- 
ing in the foreground, and a clear stream flowing through 
the meadow — which stood on his easel. Before leaving 
Barbizon, Millet's guest accompanied him to Rousseau's 
house and saw the pictures of the forest upon which the 
artist was then engaged. On the last morning of his 
visit, Millet, who seldom allowed any of his guests to 
depart empty-handed, made a rapid pen-and-ink sketch 
of a pair of sabots which he presented to M. Piedagnel 
as a souvenir of Barbizon. A reproduction of this 
drawing, bearing the words : u A mon ami, Alexandre 
Piedagnel, Barbizon, 26 Aout, 1864," and signed, " J. F. 
Millet," appeared three years afterwards in the Consti- 
tutionnel, together with an article from M. Piedagnel's 
pen, entitled "Histoire d'une Paire de Sabots," giving a 
pleasant account of the week which he had spent at 
Barbizon. A copy of the number was sent to Millet, 
who acknowledged its receipt in the following letter: 



" My dear Piedagnel, — 

"I must beg you to forgive me for having been so long in 
telling you how much I was touched by the kindness of your 
article, ' The History of a Pair of Sabots,' and by the accompanying 
letter. I should hardly mend matters if I tried to tell you all the 
good reasons I have had for this delay. I must confess I am often 
guilty of putting off till the morrow. Yet my intentions were good. 
But I always remember how my grandmother used to say : ' My 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



273 



poor Francois, hell is paved with good intentions.' If this is indeed 
the case, I am certainly fated to provide the pavement for those 
regions. Do not let me, I beg of you once more, reach so sad a 
destiny for lack of your pardon ! I am awkwardly placed, you will 
allow, and can hardly give you an opinion on the Sabots or their 
maker. If I say the work is well done, you will say, ' Ah ! that is 
because it concerns himself.' If, in order to appear modest, I say it 
is badly done, no one will think it either true or civil. So all I will 
say is that it seems to me to come from your heart ! The whole 
family send you and Madame Piedagnel their respect until our next 
meeting. Accept a cordial shake of the hand from myself." 

That summer Sensier and Ms wife also paid their 
usual visit to Barbizon, and spent some weeks in Millet's 
company. On their return to Paris, Millet wrote asking 
for news of his friends, and telling Sensier of a visit 
which he had received from M. Thomas, the owner of the 
house which his Seasons were to decorate : 



"Barbizon, October 9, 1864. 

" Give me news of yourself, my dear Sensier, for we are 
anxious to hear how you have been since your return to Paris. 
Here every one is tolerably well, excepting myself. I suffer con- 
tinually from headaches, and am at moments quite disabled. This 
state of things makes me very sad. I work as much as I can, but 
often the pain is too bad, and as I have not a sufficient dose of the 
virtue we call patience, the natural result is impatience. 

" I have just had a visit from M. Thomas, of Colmar. He 
seemed pleased at the first sight of my panels, but his satisfaction 
appeared to increase more and more at every moment, and in the 
end he became quite enthusiastic. When you see Feydeau, try and 
find out what were his real impressions. He told me that although 
he expected the things would be good, he had never dreamt they 
would so far surpass his expectations. He says that an immense 
number of persons have already asked to see the paintings, and 
that great curiosity is felt about them. Some people said to him, 
' You must really be a man of great taste to have dared to ask M. 
Millet for those paintings ! ' And he congratulates himself on the 
boldness of his taste, and does not seem to reflect that Feydeau 

T 



274 



J. F. MILLET 



may have had some influence over him. Well, whatever the 
source of his satisfaction may be, let us be thankful. Summer 
seemed to please him especially." 

The next three letters relate to Delacroix's Exhibition, 
and to the attacks which had been made upon the dead 
painter — a subject upon which Millet was always sensitive, 
especially when any of his friends were in question. 

" Barbizon, October 13, 1864. 

" Is there anything fresh in Delacroix's Exhibition ? Will it be 
kept open long ? I ask that to know if I am likely to see it again. 
I should think that Martinet's Exhibition must pale beside it. I do 
not know if Diaz is still at Chailly. We have not seen him. I was 
told at Rousseau's the other day that M. Lecreux had got hold of 
him and persuaded him to paint a panel for Barbey (the inn- 
keeper). Can that be true ? If he has really painted a panel for 
Barbey, it is an unjustifiable action. I am working at my panels 
again. My landscape must wait for the present, but now and then 
I mean to work at it for half a day. 

" My poor Sensier, I know not what to say as to your sad state, 
excepting that I pity you. What doctor can cure such sickness ? 

"Yours, 

"J. F. Millet.' 

"Barbizon, 21 October, 1861. 

" I am glad to hear that Diaz has refused to paint a panel for 
Barbey, in spite of Lecreux's solicitations. All honour to Diaz ! 

" A few days ago I received a letter from Feydeau, announcing 
his intended visit. As soon as he has been here I shall begin 
M. Robaut's drawing. You may tell him that he will have it very 
soon — by the 15th of November at latest. He may take this as the 
same security as a note of hand. 

" I certainly mean to pay a second visit to the Delacroix Exhibi- 
tion, to see again what I have already seen, and make acquaintance 
with what I have not yet seen. What you say of Couture and his 
companions does not surprise me, although their conduct is infamous. 
It reminds me of two lines of Hugo ; I forget where they come 
from : 

' Lache insulte, affront vil, vaine insulte d'une heure, 
Que fait tout ce qui passe a tout ce qui demeure ! ' 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



275 



" My memory does not serve me well, for insulte does not come 
twice over In the first line, but the sense is the same. These people 
are well aware that they have produced nothing really good ; for to 
have painted things that mean nothing is to have borne no fruit. 
Production and expression go together. Like most feeble persons, 
they try to revenge themselves on those who are stronger than they 
are. I suppose, as you say, the great mass of artists are very 
apathetic, or else these men would not dare to behave as they do. 
Rousseau, with whom I was discussing this the other day, told me 
that he believed Delacroix had been attacked on all sides. He 
judged by a number of Martinet's Journal, in which Silvestre's 
defence of Delacroix was quoted, a defence which Rousseau thought 
very poor, and rather likely to help Delacroix's enemies than to 
demolish them, since Silvestre gave no really good reasons in support 
of his argument. You have probably read that I no longer see Mar- 
tinefs Journal, and Rousseau has mislaid the number, and forgets 
how it was worded. According to him, it appears that Silvestre 
was forced to take this step, by the number and violence of the 
attacks upon Delacroix, with which Rousseau is justly indignant. 

" You may be sure that on every occasion I shall not fail to say 
what I feel it my duty to say, and I had one such occasion, the only 
time that I visited this Exhibition. I will tell you what happened 
if I remember to mention the subject. Tell me what you hear. 

" Yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 



"Barbizon, November 8, 1864. 

" Meanwhile, I am attending to our gardens, where nothing seems 

to go right. R has dug holes for the trees, but has not 

planted any yet, and makes an excuse of a sprain, which, he says, 

prevents him from working. S promises to bring the manure 

and never comes. D has sold us some wood, has thrown it 

into Jacque's atelier, and has never come to stack it up. We shall 
be obliged to set to work ourselves. My dear Sensier, nothing is 
so strong as indolence. 

" Feydeau told me of a journal which his brother Ernest is going 
to bring out. If you could make some serious answer in its pages 
to the attacks upon Delacroix, it would be an excellent thing. We 
must talk of it. Au revoir to you and yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 



276 J. F. MILLET 

November, as before, brought a fresh crop of troubles. 
In 1862, poor Vallardi's suicide had happened in No- 
vember.; this year Madame Millet became seriously ill, 
and Rousseau had a painful attack of rheumatism, from 
which he never entirely recovered. Millet himself 
suffered with his head and eyes, and often had to lay 
down his brush. 

"Barbizon, November 18, 1864. 

" Please do not forget the Mont de Piete. . . . Give us some 
particulars of Proudhon's sanctification, and the effect which it has 
produced. Ask Daumier to find out all he can about the perspector 
of whom he told me. He spoke of him as very clever. If so, he 
would be able to help me design my ceiling, which is to represent 
Autumn, the fourth of my compositions. 

" I have asked Rousseau about the reproductions of Giotto's works, 
which you mentioned, but have found out nothing definite, except 
that they were superb and touching. Where are the originals ? 
How many subjects are there, and by whom are they published ? 
Send me the Salon rules, and I will think about exhibiting. Please 
tell me whether M. Martel is willing to let his atelier. It might be 
available for my decorations. My wife has had another violent 
attack of pain in the stomach and liver. I am concerned at seeing 
her in this condition ; and if she has another attack, I will bring her 
to see a Paris doctor. 

" Yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 

"Barbizon, 27 November, 1864. 
" This unhappy Rousseau was attacked a little time back with 
violent pains in the thigh. Now these pains have spread into his 
back and loins, and attacked the other thigh. The pain is almost 
unbearable, and leaves him no rest. He can neither lie down nor 
sit up. He has spent several days without rest, and has not closed 
his eyes a single instant during the night. Tillet and I have scarcely 
left his bedside, and have sat up all night with him, so that we are 
all tired out, which by the bye will explain my delay in sending M. 
Robaut's drawing. And I have also had two days of violent head- 
aches, brought on, no doubt, by want of sleep. Last night we did 
not sit up after one o'clock, as he seemed a little better. I have 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



277 



not yet heard if he was able to get a little sleep during the rest 
of the night. 

" This morning I am going to do a sketch of the drawing of the 
Couturier sale. I will send it with M. Robaut's, and beg you to give 
it to M. Couturier. My head feels hollow. Another sick headache 
is at hand. When you can manage it, see Daumier about the per- 
spector. Good health to you all, 

"J. F. Millet/' 

"Barbizon, 29 November, 1&64. 
" I have sent M. Couturier's drawing to the train. Please send 
him a little note at once, telling him that he can call at your house 
for the sketch. If I ask you to write instead of doing this myself, 
it is because the tone of his letter is very embarrassing, and that I am 
puzzled how to reply in a suitable tone. His address is : Rue des 
Dames, 52, Batignolles. M. Robaut's drawing is with that of M. 
Couturier. It is not highly finished, but done as you wished. I 
have merely indicated the general effect with a few touches of pastel. 
I hope he will be pleased. Rousseau is almost restored to health. 
My wife and I mean to come to Paris some of these days to consult 
a doctor, for she does not get well. Console Forget, if it is possible, 
for the theft of his picture, and tell him that his panel is begun. I 
do not know if it is my fancy, but it really seemed to me as if the 
drawing for M. Couturier had some character. If you agree with 
me in this, could you not get one of your friends to buy it ? I leave 
you to decide this, and trust to your judgment. If it were not 
ridiculous to be always complaining, I would tell you that I am not 
well. . . Au revoir. 

"J. F. Millet." 



" Barbizon, December, 1864. 
" Tillot and his family have started to spend the winter in Paris. 
Rousseau and his wife also left at the same time. Rousseau wants 
to see a doctor about the pains in his back. I must see the per- 
spector, M. Mahieu, who is said to be a very clever man, and 
M. Andrieu (Delacroix's pupil), who may give me some useful hints 
on the subject of large decorative work. I must see the Louvre 
again, Paul Veronese, and the Italian masters who were so strong in 
decorative art, and Poussin, who also tried it. In short, I mean to 
spend a week in Paris, running about and studying. I should like, 



278 J. F. MILLET 

if possible, to see the Chamber of Deputies, where Delacroix has 
done some great things. Before I put my hand to the canvas, 
I want to fill my mind with these masters who were so strong and 
so learned. I dread the day when I must begin to work definitely." 

Unfortunately the week in Paris brought on an attack 
of inflammation in his eyes, and after his return to Bar- 
bizon, he wrote to Sensier on the 28th of December: 

" The day after my return from Paris, I woke up with my left eye 
as big as a walnut, and as red as blood. It was very painful. I 
could not see to work, and my attempts to give my mind to what 
I was doing brought on a violent pain in my forehead and eyes. 
This lasted several days, and my sight is still very feeble. But 
I have managed to work a little, and have hardly anything more to 
do to Forget's picture. Last night I tried to take a little walk on the 
plain, but the effect of the air was like a knife cutting through my 
eyes, and this morning they are very painful. Forget shall not have 
to wait for his drawing later than the first of January. My eyes are 
quite dim after writing these few lines. We all of us wish you all 
whatever can be desired for those whom we love well, and we ask 
Him who alone can help us to keep away from you such sorrows as 
that which you have experienced this last year. 

" Yours with all my heart, 

"J. F. Millet." 

With this letter Sensier's Life of Millet ends. The 
work was cut short by his death in 1877, and the task 
of completing and publishing the unfinished biography 
was left to the eminent writer M. Paul Mantz. Sensier 
had left behind him a few notes and other fragments, 
quotations from newspapers, a few dates and descriptions 
scribbled on the margin of catalogues. But the chief 
material at the disposal of M. Mantz were Millet's own 
letters to Sensier. Several packets of these, carefully 
sorted and dated, lay ready to his hand, and enabled 
him to continue the story of the painter's life without a 
break. He has, he tells us, omitted many passages of 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



279 



less general interest — details as to the cultivation of 
Sensier's garden, directions for the sale of his drawings, 
or payment of his bills, particulars of his wife and 
children's health, but has carefully preserved every line 
relating to his work. Naturally, this portion of the 
narrative loses some of its interest. We miss the vivid 
personal impressions, the scattered fragments of Millet's 
conversation and recollections which are the charm of 
Sensier's pages. But every one will agree that M. 
Mantz acquitted himself of his difficult task with tact 
and ability, and to his careful revision the work pro- 
bably owes whatever literary merit it may possess. 



2 8o 



J. F. MILLET 



XVI 



1865— 1866 

THE failing health of Rousseau, and the dangerous 
illness of Millet's little son Charles, were the 
painter's chief causes of anxiety during the winter 
months of 1865. His wife also suffered from her old 
complaint, and was constantly seeing doctors, whose pre- 
scriptions gave her little relief. But in spite of these 
manifold anxieties, Millet worked on with absorbing in- 
terest at his Autumn, the last of the four Seasons, which 
were to decorate M. Thomas's new house. The work, as 
we learn from the following letters, was actually begun 
in January, 1865, an d finally completed in September. 



" Barbizon, 6 January, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" On Monday, the perspector, M. Mahieu, came. We had to 
clear out my atelier in order to lay the canvas down flat, and to make 
a tracing of the balustrade of the ceiling. We worked all day and 
part of the evenings, from Monday till last night (Thursday). I was 
very unwell, but did what I could. I am much pleased with 
M. Mahieu." 

" Barbizon, 10 January, 1865. 
" My dear Forget, — 

" I am just going to begin my ceiling. It is a very difficult 
task, because of the want of space here. Yet without counting that, 
the difficulties are great enough, in all conscience ! But a la guerre 
comme a la guerre. My panels have got on pretty well. You may 
be certain that as soon as they are in Paris, you shall be one of the 
first persons invited to see them." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



28l 



" Barbizon, 10 January, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

"You spoke to me of a M. Champollion, who holds some high 
office in the palace of Fontainebleau. Now I want to look at the 
paintings there at my leisure. You would oblige me by sending him 
a line begging him to get me this permission.. If you send me 
a letter for him and he is absent, the journey would be wasted. 
Would it not be possible, in case of his absence, for him to give 
orders to the custodian, to show me what I want, and let me have 
time to inspect it thoroughly ? " 

"Barbizon, 26 January, 1865. 
"My dear Sensier,— 

"It is evidently difficult to> see the Fontainebleau paintings. 
Please draw up a request for the necessary permission. Only, 
unless it is absolutely necessary, do not mention any special rooms, 
as, for instance, the Salle Henri II., but get me a general permission 
to inspect the paintings of the palace. If you are obliged to name 
particular rooms, the Salle Henri II., and the chapel with Martin 
Freminet's paintings, are what I must see. 

" I should like to have seen the Antonello di Messina and the 
other Primitives of which you speak ; also the Claude and the 
Greek antiques, which are by no means to be despised. Where 
will they all go?" 



[These works of art belonged to the Pourtales collec- 
tion, and were dispersed at the coming sale.] 

"My wife is not well to-day. She suffers more than usual. 
We are soon coming to Paris. I have just been writing to M. Chas- 
saing, who has placed his- good offices at my wife's service, in case 
she has to go to Vichy. He is really full of devotion and kindness." 

"Barbizon, January 30, 1865. 
"The weather is grey and rainy, the sky dark, and the clouds 
low ; but, as you know, I prefer this kind of weather to sunshine. 
All is of a melancholy and rich colour ; very soothing to the eye 
and calming to the brain. .... I have seen Rosso and Pri- 
maticcio once more at Fontainebleau. There is a strange power 
about them. They belong to the decadence, it is true. The 



282 



J. F. MILLET 



accoutrements of their figures are often ridiculous, their taste is 
doubtful, but what vigour of conception ! How forcibly this 
boisterous mirth recalls early ages. Their art contains at once 
reminiscences of Lancelot and Amadis, together with the germ 
of Ariosto, of Tasso and Perrault. I could spend hours before 
these kindly giants." 

" Barbizon, n February, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I must first of all speak to you of Rousseau, who does not 
seem to me so terribly ill as Diaz told you. He is decidedly 
better ; and I am convinced that if the weather improved, and 
he could get out a little every day, he would soon recover some 
degree of health. Now he is beginning to work for a good bit 
at a time, which he could not do a few days back. He leaves 
on the 15th or 17th, so you will soon see him. But his wife 
becomes more and more of a trial every day. 

" M. Mahieu, the perspector, comes to-morrow to correct the 
mistakes caused by the wrong measurements that were given 
him for the balustrade. I am glad to hear what you say of the 
Exhibition in the Rue Choiseul, and to have your impressions of 
my sketches. Who is this M. Gavet who has bought my Bergere ? 
Tell me anything of interest about him." 

"Barbizon, 9 March. 
" I shall send nothing to this year's Salon, since I could not 
do what I wanted. I am very sorry for this ; but since I could 
not carry out my ideas, I think it best to keep away." 

" Barbizon, 14 March, 1865. 
"You did well to settle with M. de Villemessant. You have 
my full permission to act for me in these matters. When it is 
time to send the sketch of La Bergere to the printer, let me know 
if any description is required. I am glad to hear that Rousseau 
is well, and that Diaz's sale was a good one. I have received 
a letter from Simeon Luce, from Marseilles, where he has been 
for the last eighteen months. He tells me that he often sees 
Jeanron, who is Director of the School of Fine Arts there. ' I 
do not share all the ideas and tendencies of this excellent man,' 
he writes, ' but he is a good fellow who loves Art passionately, 
and knows its history thoroughly. He is always very amiable, 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



283 



and he knows all that is happening here. He speaks of the 
Angelus, of which he has heard "wonders."' I did not know 
that M. de Morny was dead." 

" Barbizon, 29 March, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I am very glad that you are going to do the articles on 
the Salon. You may be sure that I will tell you everything I 
can think of, either about Art in general, or any particular works. 
It seems to me that you might show, by going back a little, that 
Art began to decline from the moment when the artist no longer 
leant directly and simply upon impressions taken from nature. 
Then clever execution rapidly took the place of nature, and the 
decadence began. Force departs directly you turn aside from 
nature, as we learn from the fable of Antaeus, whose powers failed 
when his feet no longer rested on the ground, and who recovered 
his strength every time he touched the earth. Say that briefly 
but fully, and repeat it as often as possible. Show your readers 
that for the same reason Art has steadily declined in modern 
times, and give as many examples as possible. I am only sorry 
we cannot talk it over. I will send as packing for the Marae 
drawing some extracts from Montaigne, Palissy, Piccolpassi, and 
his translator, Claudius Popelyn, which will supply you with a 
few good quotations, and some ideas that may be of use to you. 
I will try if I can find some more. I am going to think this 
over, and tell you whatever comes into my mind. In the end, 
it always comes back to this — a man must be touched himself 
before he can touch others ; and work that is done as a specu- 
lation, however clever it may be, can never effect this, because 
it has not got the breath of life. Quote St. Paul's expression : 
ces sonans et cymbalum /inniens." 

"April 7, 1865. 
"My dear Feuardent, — 

" So you are off for Italy at last ! If you should happen to 
find any photographs, either of the well-known antiques or of 
paintings, from Cimabue to Michelangelo, which are not too 
exorbitant in price, buy them, and we will take them off your 
hands. Each place you will visit has its own particular school 
of art. You must see them all by degrees. As for the old 
masters, be sure only to buy photographs that are taken directly 



284 J. F. MILLET 

from the originals, and not from engravings. Get nothing of 
Raphael — he can be studied in Paris. Make careful inquiries at 
Naples as to whether the paintings of Herculaneum and Pompeii 
have been reproduced. In short, bring whatever you can get 
there — works of art or landscapes, human beings or animals. 
Diaz's son who died brought home some excellent ones of sheep, 
among other subjects. In buying figures, you will of course 
select those that have the least flavour of academic art and models. 
But get whatever is good, ancient or modern, proper or improper. 
Enough ! Send us your little ones. . . . One more piece of 
advice — if you find any old illustrated books, get them if possible. 
Bon voyage, health and happiness f" 

"Barbizon, 10 April, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Feydeau and M. Thomas came yesterday, and seemed 
satisfied. ... I cannot remember what Michelangelo said about 
academies. I have not got a Vasari. If you look through his 
work at leisure, you will find many good things. . . . You 
should glance at Rousseau's volume, Le Moyen Age et la Renaissance. 
He has an article, if I remember right, on the history of French 
art. Look at Le Toumeur's preface to his translation of Shak- 
speare. He has said some good things as to what constitutes the 
real superiority of creative minds over those who are only good 
workmen, and have been well taught. Rousseau possesses the 
book. You might discourse upon all of these subjects, in order 
to prove the gulf that lies between work that is merely well 
reasoned, and that which is sincerely felt." 

The next letter refers to a letter from M. Mame, acknow- 
ledging Millet's drawing, and expressing his approval of 
the work, but which the painter seems to have left in 
doubt as to his real feelings on the subject. Millet, it 
must be confessed, was singularly sensitive on this score. 

"Barbizon, 2 May, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have received this letter from M. Mame : ' Sir, I received 

yesterday, through M. Sensier, the pastel which he asked you to 

make for me. I am extremely well satisfied with it; and all the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



285 



amateurs who have seen it agree with me in recognising the 
excellent qualities of this drawing. Accordingly, I hope you will 
accept my thanks, and the assurance of my most distinguished 
sentiments. — Mame.' 

" I shall be obliged if you will acknowledge the receipt of the 
enclosed 200 francs, the price which you named. 

" This letter satisfies all polite requirements, but does not show 
me if M. Mame is really pleased, and seems to me as if it might 
have been written beforehand. Try and get at the real facts 
through your brother. This may be the way in which some persons 
express their satisfaction. I hope in this case it is so." 

" Barbizon, May 12, 1866. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" What you tell me of poor Rousseau is very sad. I fear 
he is completely breaking up. Does his illness increase ? What 
does he himself say to this ? It is enough to make one despair, 
however strong one's head may be. But sufficient unto the day ! 
Although it cannot be called a surprise, this confirmation of our 
fears is none the less a new blow. ... I am impatient to 
see Jean Ravenel's article." 

[Sensier had been writing articles on the Salon in the 
Epoque, under the nom de plume of Jean Ravenel.] 

" Do you know what people think of them ? I must not quite 
omit to visit the Salon. It is always a curious experience. If 
Jean Ravenel dares not always say all that he thinks, I hope you 
will, if you can find time, supplement his remarks upon some 
worthy artists. For instance, Courbet and Daubigny, whom you 
say it is not easy to bring before the public, have surely painted 

pictures which would help to remove these prejudices. M. D 's 

delay in advancing the usual sum at the end of the month is 
annoying, I assure you, for I am compelled to leave my ceiling, 
and am dismayed at this fresh hindrance. . . . Sunday week 
is the fete of Barbizon. A big advertisement announces this event 
to the village in fine style. . . ." 

"22 August, 1865. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We visited Corot and Commairas with Rousseau, and had 
the kindest of welcomes. Our day was very pleasantly spent. We 



286 



J. F. MILLET 



dined with De Knyff, who treated us in princely fashion, to quote 
Diaz's expression. As to the dinner, Alfred Feydeau's was quite 
put in the shade ! There were fresh plates for each course. 
First-rate wines, etc., etc. I must confess that I was more em- 
barrassed than delighted with this fashion of dining, and that I 
often watched my neighbours out of the corner of my eye, to see 
what I ought to do next. Corot's pictures are beautiful, but express 
nothing new. We are pretty well. I have almost finished my 
ceiling. . . ." 

"Barbizon, 5 September, 1895. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have had some frightful headaches. M. Gavet came 

here yesterday with Rousseau. He asked me for twenty drawings, 

but does not mean to stop there. He said, I should like to have 

fifty as well as twenty, but you must begin by doing the twenty. 

I asked him for 350 francs for each drawing of ordinary size, but 

those which are very important are to be 500. There ! . . ." 



" Paris, 29 September. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" Here is almost a week which I have spent in Paris for the 
King of Prussia's sake ! This is the state of things which I found 
at the hotel. The ceiling has been fixed in its place, but is sadly 
damaged by the operation. If merely some portions of the 
work had been spoilt, I could have restored them, but the work- 
men have smeared the whole with whitewash, so that this un- 
fortunate ceiling looks as if it had been trodden under foot for 
several days by masons. This will give me a great deal of trouble. 
I am vexed, and plunged in despair. . . . We tried to put 
the panels in their frames with a few nails, and held them up at 
arm's length, but that did not help me to judge of their effect. 
To-day I shall for the first time be able to see the four paintings 
in their proper place." 

The work upon which he had been so long engaged 
was finally concluded, and the Four Seasons were minutely 
described in four long articles, from the pen of Sensier, 
in the next numbar of the Epoque. An engraving of 
Spring, which seems to have been the most generally 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



287 



admired, also appeared in M. Piedagnel's Souvenirs of 
Barbison. Unfortunately these interesting works, the 
most important example of Millet's classical style, did not 
long remain in the house for which they were intended. 
The new hotel of the Boulevard Haussmann was dis- 
mantled in 1875, and Millet's Seasons were sold by auction 
at the HOtel Drouot on the 16th of April, 1875. M. Mantz 
tells us that on this occasion they provoked much dis- 
cussion and a little disappointment ; but Mr. Wyatt Eaton, 
who studied them attentively, describes them as affording 
a fresh proof of Millet's comprehensiveness and power. 



"Although not painted in the usual manner of large decora- 
tions," he writes, "the effect of the panels in the room where 
they had belonged must have been complete and surpassingly fine. 
But to judge them in the strong light of a gallery, and without 
the requisite distance, was to ignore Millet's intuition and accom- 
plishment." 

Millet was now free to devote himself to the series of 
drawings which had been ordered by the architect, M. 
Gavet. He was at work upon these one day in November 
when the new patron paid him a second visit, and had a 
long conversation with him. M. Gavet's admiration for 
his art was great, and he offered him excellent terms if 
he would consent to work for him. But Millet had 
suffered too much annoyance from his contract with 
Blanc and Stevens ever to pledge his freedom again. M. 
Gavet, however, as he soon discovered, was a genuine 
lover of art, and before long the two men came to an 
agreement, as we learn from the following letters: 

"Barbizon, Saturday. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" The postmistress seemed very grateful for what you have 
done to help her, and I am certain that the poor old blind woman 
in GreVille will be the same. I ought to come to Paris to talk 



255 J. F. MILLET 

over a visit which M. Gavet paid me the day before yesterday. 
He wishes me to make an innumerable quantity of drawings for 
him, and to engage to work very little for any one else. I told 
him first of all that there were certain persons for whom I would 
never refuse to work, himself, of course, being one of them! — 
and so on. I did not wish to make any hasty reply. He will 
return here perhaps next Thursday, and try to come to some kind 
of an agreement. As you will be here before that time, we can 
talk over this, and see what is the best thing to be done. There 
are certain things to be said for and against the plan, which we 
must consider as far as possible. It is of no use to write more 
about it, as we shall soon be able to talk. Try, if you can, to 
find out what I am worth in Paris. That would, at least, give 
us a point of departure. It will be a good thing for you to be 
away from Paris during the cholera." 

The following passage belongs to a letter addressed 
by Millet to his absent friend, M. Feuardent, on the 5th 
of December, 1865 : 

" The same amateur who asked me for twenty drawings some 
time ago, now wants a number of others, and into the bargain 
a whole string of pictures, so much so that he would like me to 
work for no one else. We spent yesterday in discussing the 
matter, and have succeeded in making an agreement. This 
amateur is an architect called M. Gavet. So now I have pictures 
to paint for him during three good years, and shall be well paid, 
if I do nothing else. But I have reserved my liberty on all points, 
— liberty both in the choice of my subjects, and liberty to work 
for others. He is perfectly insatiable ! He wants everything of 
mine that he can get, and is going to make a gallery for my 
pictures. He will give me 1,000 francs a month from the end of 
the year, and will pay me the balance when I deliver the work." 



The result of this agreement was that during the next 
two years Millet made no less than ninety-five drawings 
for M. Gavet. These drawings were executed in every 
variety of material — in crayons, charcoal, pastel, and 
water-colour. The subjects represented were of the most 




/y &/, 0/) 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



289 



different kinds, shepherds and shepherdesses, cowherds 
and goatherds, peasant-women churning and milking cows, 
labourers sowing and reaping, going out to work in 
the morning or coming home at nightfall, mothers watch- 
ing by their sleeping infants, teaching their little ones to 
knit or sew, or nursing their sick children. There were 
deer starting from their lair in the forest, sheep browsing 
on the edge of the thicket, rabbits scuttling out of their 
holes, nights of crows darkening the winter sky, bouquets 
of daisies, and pots of dandelions. And there were beau- 
tiful effects of landscape : winter scenes when the snow 
is deep and the forest trees are bare ; autumn evenings 
with the leaves lying thick on the ground, and the sun 
setting in the fog, storm-clouds rolling up from the plain, 
or the rainbow breaking out over the meadows after a 
passing shower. Many of these subjects were inspired 
by Barbizon and its neighbourhood; others were recol- 
lections of the painter's beloved Normandy ; a few were 
suggested by his visits to Auvergne. And among them 
we find some of the finest things which Millet ever 
did, some of the most complete and significant pages of 
his great poem. A warm friendship, it is pleasant to 
learn, sprung up between the artist and his employer. 
Several of Millet's letters during the next two years are 
addressed to this patron, who appreciated his genius so 
fully, and shared the delight with which he noted the 
changeful aspects of earth and sky. 

On the 28th of December, 1865, he writes: 



" My dear Monsieur Gavet, — 

" We have had some superb effects of fog and some hoar- 
frosts so fairy-like that they surpass all imagination. The forest 
was marvellously beautiful in this attire, but I am not sure the 
more modest objects, the bushes and briars, tufts of grass, and 
little sprays of all kinds were not, in their way, the most beautiful 
of all. It seems as if Nature wished to give them a chance, and 

U 






290 



J. F. MILLET 



show that these poor despised things are inferior to nothing of 
God's creation. Anyhow, they have had three glorious days. I 
have finished M. Brame's little picture. He must have received 
it by this time. I am going to set to work on your Night, and 
some other pictures for you ; while I go on working at M. Brame's 
larger picture, which I hope to send to the Salon. You will 
receive several drawings in the course of January." 

The picture here mentioned was the End of the Village 
of Greville, a view of the little street of Gruchy looking 
over the sea, which naturally aroused many tender 
memories of the past. 

"My dear Sensier," he writes on the 3rd of January, 1866, "I 
have not had my usual New Year's headache. I am certainly 
rather complaining, but I can bear with myself, and that is saying 
a great deal. I am working at my End of the Village, looking 
over the sea. My old elm begins, I think, to look gnawed by 
the wind. How I wish I could make it stand out in space as 
I see it in my thoughts ! Oh, wide horizons, which so often filled 
my mind with dreams when I was a child, shall I ever be 
allowed to make others feel your power? Your laurel is bound 
round with straw. If it has not yet been hurt by the frost, it is 
to be hoped that, now it is well protected, it will be able to bear 
future ones. Tillot must have spoken to you of the hoar-frost. 
No words can give an idea of its beauty. To compare it to the 
tales of The Arabian Nights would be trivial and commonplace. 
These things form part of the ' treasures of the snow ' which are 
spoken of in the Book of Job." 

While Millet was at work on his Greville picture, he 
received a sudden summons to his old home. His beloved 
sister Emilie was dangerously ill, and not expected to live. 
He set off at once for Normandy, and wrote a melancholy 
letter to Sensier from his sister's home. 

"Greville, Hameau Le Fevre, 6 February, 1866. 
" I found my poor sister in a desperate condition. I am very 
glad to have seen her once more, especially since my presence 
gave the poor dying girl a moment of joy. When I arrived, my 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



29I 



brother, Jean-Louis, told me that she no longer knew any one. 
I came near her bed and spoke to her, telling her my name. 
She remained some time apparently unconscious. At last she 
opened her eyes with an expression of surprise. I repeated my 
name, and then a thrill passed over her poor face, drawn and 
wasted as it was by the fever. Her eyes filled with tears, big 
tears which ran down her cheeks. She clasped my hand con- 
vulsively between her own, and said with all the strength that 
was left her, Francois ! 

" Poor dear girl ! her heart was still sufficiently alive and full 
of love to overcome her weakness and make itself felt. You can 
imagine, my poor Sensier, what an impression this made upon 
me. . . . 

" This hamlet has as many as thirty-five inhabitants, and more 
than half of them are in bed. And yet how beautiful and healthy 
the situation is ! When I begin to recover my calm of mind, I 
must tell you more about this country. The whole aspect of the 
place is pleasant and homely, like some old Breughel. Last 
January there was a gale here such as had not been known since 
1808. The ground is still strewn with fallen trees, and among 
them is my poor old elm, which I was hoping to see again. So 
this world passes away, and we too are passing with it ! My poor 
Sensier, I am very sad." 

On the nth of February his sister died, and a few days 
afterwards he returned to Barbizon to finish his picture. 
On the 1 6th of March, he wrote to Sensier, and an- 
nounced its completion. 

" I shall come up on Monday morning with my picture. You 
know about the time when I am likely to arrive. If you can be 
there to see it, I shall be very glad. I should like to hear your 
impressions. ... I ought really to have kept the picture here 
all the summer, and after it was thoroughly dry have worked at 
it again from time to time ; but this is out of the question now, 
and it must be exhibited in its present condition. You will tell 
me if I need not be too much ashamed of it." 



The picture was so badly hung that when the Salon 
opened Millet's friend, Bodmer, declared that he could not 



292 



J. F. MILLET 



find it in the galleries. This disturbed Millet, who wrote 
to Rousseau for information. 

"Barbizon, 29 April. 
" My dear Rousseau, — 

" Bodmer, who has returned from Paris, and has visited the 
Salon, has just been here to tell me that he looked for my picture, 
but could not find it, either under the letter ' M/ or in any other 
part of the rooms. He was there with Mouilleron, and both of 
them hunted everywhere in vain. Can you by any chance explain 
this ? I cannot conceive what has happened. However badly 
my picture may have been hung, it must be hung somewhere. 
My wife is ill, and the doctor has just said that she must go to 
Vichy, and be there by the 15th of May. This is a great trouble 
and anxiety for me." 



The critics were severe upon the Greville picture, which 
Millet owned was still unfinished and had not been var- 
nished, owing to his intention of working at it again later 
on. Edmond About reproached him with alternately ex- 
hibiting masterpieces and worthless daubs. But even this 
canvas had its admirers. 

" M. Gavet came here the day before yesterday," wrote Millet 
to his friend Sensier, on the 18th of May, "and seems at least as 
eager as ever for pictures. He spoke of the critiques of my 
Salon picture, which he thinks stupid, and declares that once 
my picture has been varnished it will be superb, and says that 
if it were hung in another gallery it would make everything else 
look insignificant. But he agrees with you in thinking that I 
ought not to exhibit my pictures unvarnished. He has ordered 
more drawings and pictures, and wishes to have an exhibition of 
his whole collection. If that day ever comes, he declares my 
enemies will hold their peace. He is much struck by the last 
drawings which I have sent him, and those which he saw here, 
and at which I am working now, have produced the same effect 
upon him. As long as I can make a living, the strictures of the 
critics are not likely to hurt my pride." 

M. Gavet's prophecy proved true. There came a day 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



293 



when these ninety-five drawings by the hand of Millet 
were exhibited to the wonder and delight of Paris, and 
every critic in France joined in the chorus of admiration. 
But by that time the artist himself was beyond the reach 
of human praise or blame. 

Another letter addressed by him to Sensier in the 
spring of the same year reveals the great master in a 
new and amusing light. The simplicity of his habits, 
his regard for his old friends, and the natural sensitive- 
ness of his feelings are all displayed in this characteristic 
effusion : 

" Barbizon, April 24. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We received your letter, and by the same post one from 

Madame F , in which she announces the marriage of Louise. 

In spite of all our troubles, I think we must not fail to go to the 
wedding. This being the case, there is a question which I beg 
you in all seriousness to answer at once, in order that when the 
invitation comes, we may take measures to appear properly on 
this occasion. What kind of dress is suitable? I do not think 
any one has the right to show himself on such an occasion in 

shabby clothes. My intimacy with the F s makes it the more 

important that I should not abuse their kindness in the sight of 
others. . . . Tell me, then, what is the most suitable and 
simple dress that will shock no one, without being in the least 
degree official. Give me particulars — what kind of coat, what sort 
of waistcoat, what their colour should be, and so on. I suppose 
their invitation will arrive in time for me to get what is necessary 
made to order, because I do not wish to go to such an expense 
beforehand. Anyhow, let me know what I ought to wear, and 
then I have only to act when the moment comes. I need hardly 
tell you that I shall go alone, for my wife is in no condition to 
accompany me." 



The doctors, as already mentioned, had ordered Madame 
Millet to Vichy, and Millet, feeling his wife's health to 
be of vital importance, determined to leave Barbizon, 



294 



J. F. MILLET 



sorely against his will, and take her to Auvergne him- 
self. Once the move had been safely accomplished, he 
was happy enough at Vichy. The sight of a new part 
of France interested him greatly, and his letters to 
Sensier and his other friends abound in characteristic 
description of the place and people. The following was 
written to M. Gavet on the 17th of June: 

" My dear Monsieur Gavet, — 

" I have not troubled myself much about the gay world at 
the Baths, but I have made acquaintance with some of the 
environs of Vichy, and have found several very pretty subjects. 
I make as many sketches as I can, and hope they will supply 
me with drawings of a different kind from those which you have 
already. This country, in many respects, resembles the part of 
Normandy that I know, with its green meadows enclosed by 
hedges. There are a good many streams, and consequently a 
good many water-mills. The women spin as they watch their 
cows, a thing which I have never seen before, and of which I 
intend to make use. They do not in the least resemble the 
shepherdess spinning with her distaff whom you see in the pastorals 
of the last century, and have nothing of Florian about them, 1 can 
assure you. Do not expect to see many finished drawings on 
my return. I mean to provide myself with as large a store of 
documents as possible, and I hare to look about me, since I do 
not know the country well. But when I come home you shall 
have the first-fruits of my impressions. The peasants' carts here 
are all drawn by cows. The waggons which carry the hay have 
four wheels, and are also drawn by oxen or cows. Once more, I 
mean to take in as much as possible, and let you have the result 
of my observations." 

A week later he wrote to Sensier, saying that he had 
made about fifty drawings, water-colour sketches, and 
adds the following remarks: 



" The country is green, and a little like some parts of Normandy. 
The people are far more like peasants than those at Barbizon. 
They have that good, stupid kind of awkwardness, which does not 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



295 



in the least smack of the neighbourhood of the Baths. The women 
have, as a rule, faces which are by no means bad, and which 
agree with the type of head that you see in Gothic art. The race 
cannot be a bad one. The people always speak when they meet 
you. The other day I began a sketch near a house : I had not 
been there long before a man brought me a chair, saying that 
he could not allow me to remain standing when I was so near his 
house. I must talk to you about these people and their ways 
when I come home. There is much to say, and much more to 
be done with them." 

Early in July, Millet and his friend, M. Chassaing, 
took a few days' tour in Auvergne. Together they 
visited Clermont and Mont-Dore. By the 19th the 
painter was back at Barbizon, and wrote to the com- 
panion of his travels: 

" My head is full of all that we saw together in Auvergne. 
Everything is jumbled together in my brain — volcanic mounds, 
pointed rocks, chasms, barren wastes, and green slopes ! the 
glory of God dwelling in the heights, the topmost peaks wrapt 
in storm and cloud ! I hope that all these confused impressions 
will settle down in course of time, and be stowed away each in its 
own pigeon-hole." 

Then he went back to work, and spent the autumn 
in making drawings for M. Gavet. His love of natural 
beauty seemed to deepen every year of his life. Each 
season brought its own record to add to the wealth of 
lovely sights and deep emotions that were stored up 
in his brain. Each month he found new poetry in the 
woods and in the fields. Winter itself could not rob these 
familiar scenes of their charm. That December he 
painted his wonderful pastel of the sun setting in fog 
and cloud over the plain, which he describes in a letter 
to M. Gavet: 

" The Sunset of which I spoke is a very simple thing, but I 
am trying to give it a certain sense of sadness." 



296 



J. F. MILLET 



Some years before he had told his brother Pierre that 
he would not care to live in a country where it was 
always summer, since he could not bear to miss the im- 
pressions and emotions that we receive in winter. And 
now he wrote to Sensier : 



" I must confess that the things one sees out of doors at this 
gloomy time of year are of a very moving nature, and this is a great 
compensation for the few hours of daylight, and the little time 
there is for work. I would not miss these impressions for all 
the world, and if I were asked to spend the winter in the South, 
I should refuse at once. ' O sadness of fields and woods ! I 
should lose too much if I could not see you ! ' " 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



297 



XVII 



1867-1868 

THE great event of 1867 was the International 
Exhibition. Millet, by right of the medals which 
he had won at former Salons, was entitled to send a 
selection of the works which he had painted during the 
last twelve years. The difficulty of collecting his scat- 
tered pictures and of obtaining permission from their 
owners to exhibit them, was, in his eyes, an impossible 
task, but kind friends came to his help, and eight of his 
finest works were eventually sent to the Champ de Mars. 
They were Les Glaneuses, La Jeune Bergere, La Grande 
Tondeuse, Le Berger, Les Planteurs de Pommes de Terre, 
Le Pare aux Moutons, La Recolte de Pommes de Terre, 
and the Angelus, which had lately passed into M. Gavet's 
hands. At the same time Millet sent two small pictures 
on which he had been at work during the past winter 
to the annual Salon, which opened, as usual, on the 1st of 
April. One of these was a view of the plain of Barbizon 
in winter, with crows pecking the heaps of manure on 
the plough-land, and a hillock, with bare trees spreading 
their naked boughs against the sky. That sense of 
sadness and loneliness which appealed to him so power- 
fully in these winter scenes, made itself felt in the 
wide desolate landscape, in the heavy clouds moving 
slowly across the leaden sky. It was the fruit of his 
lonely walks and silent meditations during the short 
December days. The other was a more lively subject — a 



298 



J. F. MILLET 



little goose-girl driving her geese to the pond, and is 
mentioned in the following letter : 

"Barbizon, 27 January, 1867. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have received a printed circular, signed by several artists, 
Barrias, Hillemacher, and others, asking me to contribute to a 
sale which is to be held for the benefit of Louis Duveau, who 
is ill. I have agreed to join them, and will send some little 
drawing. I had not heard of the ceremony at Ingres' funeral, 
or of the speeches at his grave, but from what you say, can 
imagine the nature of the scene. I am very glad of what you tell 
me about Rousseau's picture. The mountain background was 
splendid the last time I saw it, and inspired me with much the 
same feelings that you describe. I hope he will finish it in 
time for the Salon, for this fine work cannot fail to make a 
deep and enduring impression. I am at work on my Geese. The 
picture must be ready soon, or else I could spend any amount 
of time over it. I want to make the screams of my geese ring 
through the air. Ah ! life, life ! the life of the whole ! " 



The Salon, however, was naturally thrown into the 
shade by the Exhibition. Here Millet's pictures at- 
tracted a considerable degree of attention, not only from 
his own countrymen, but from the foreign visitors, to 
whom he was as yet comparatively unknown. He himself 
had looked forward with a good deal of trepidation to 
the effect which his assembled works might produce; 
but the result justified the most sanguine expectations 
of his friends. The letters which he wrote to Sensier 
from his quiet home at Barbizon during the first weeks 
of the great exhibition, bear witness to these alter- 
nations of hope and fear : 

" Barbizon, 26 March, 1867. 
" What you tell me in your last letter about my pictures in the 
International Exhibition, and especially of Meissonier's opinion, 
has given me great pleasure. As for the Cross of the Legion 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



299 



of Honour, I assure you, I do not flatter myself, or imagine that 
I am in the least likely to get that. Besides, there are plenty of 
people more eager than I am, and more persistent than I care to 
be in their efforts to move the wheels. All I now desire is this : 
to gain a living by my work, and be able to educate my children, 
and after that to produce as many of my impressions as possible, 
and at the same time to feel that I have the sympathy of the 
people I love best. . . . Let this be mine, and I shall feel that 
I have the best things that life has to give." 

"Barbizon, 1 April, 1867. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" So to-day is the opening of the Exhibition, if the programme 
remains unchanged. I am not without emotion, you may be sure, 
when I think of it. It is an anxious moment for myself and for 
many others." 

" Barbizon, 7 April. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" I wish with all my heart that you could get over the un- 
easiness that oppressed you when you wrote. I think if you could 
only come here for a while, it would do you a great deal of good. 
The weather will be milder in a few days, and the air good to 
breathe. Many of the fruit-trees are only waiting for a little sun to 
open their flowers, and everywhere the silent life of the earth is 
making itself felt. In fact, there is a breath of resurrection in the 
air which ought to be as good for man as for plants. Try and 
manage this if you can. What you say about my pictures is a relief 
to my mind. But I am still waiting to see the definite character 
of the impression which they produce. 

" How is it that I receive this invitation from the Director of Fine 
Arts ? I have replied in the way you advised, and said that I could 
not accept because I lived so far from Paris. Tillot suggests that 
I should go and see him and talk over the question, and ask him 
not to present me. This bothers me very much, and nothing can 
ever induce me to change my habits. If I am too much pressed, 
I shall be obliged to send a formal refusal. I shall very soon come 
to Paris, and we can discuss the matter, and try to arrange it so 
as to meet the wishes of all parties. 

" Diaz and Eugene are here. He says that people tell him that 
my pictures look very well. I invited them to dine with me to-day, 



300 J. F. MILLET 

and they accepted. Diaz says that they are all coming here in May, 
with Detrimont and Marie. M. Gavet has not yet been to fetch 
his drawings, and so Diaz has seen them. He seemed much 
pleased, especially with the lamp-light study {La Veillee). If you 
see him, ask what he thinks of them. Your own letter, my dear 
Sensier, is very melancholy. Come here soon. We will talk 
over the vanished years together, for I too go back to them con- 
tinually. As the prophet-king David said : ' Atmos antiquos in 
mente habuiJ " 

" Barbizon, 23 April, 1867. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" What you tell me is, as you say, new and encouraging. But 
do not tire yourself too much, for interviews such as you have had 
with M. Silvestre do not always produce a calming effect. I 
place full confidence in your wisdom, and since you ask my 
advice, am very glad that you laid stress on the rustic side of 
my art, for to say the truth, if this side is not brought out in my 
work, I have failed. I reject with my whole might the democratic 
idea, as it is understood in the language of the clubs, which some 
persons have tried to impute to me. I have only tried to make 
people think of the man whose life is spent in toil, and who eats 
bread in the sweat of his brow. You can honestly say that I have 
never tried to defend any cause. But I am a peasant of peasants. 
As for any explanation of my method of painting, that would take a 
long time, for I have never paid much attention to this ; and if I have 
a style of my own, it has only been the result of entering more or 
less fully into my subject, and knowing the difficulties of life by 
my own experience. If I come to Paris, as I probably shall on 
Thursday evening, could you ask M. Silvestre to come to your 
house one evening ? and we might talk this over together. Some- 
times rather lengthy explanations are necessary to arrive at a very 
brief conclusion. If his article cannot wait for that, you must do 
the best you can without me." 

The Exhibition had, in fact, proved a triumph both for 
Millet and Rousseau, who was elected President of the 
Jury, and received a Grand Medal of Honour. He was 
continually urging Millet to leave his work, put on his 
black coat and cravat, come to Paris, and see the Ex- 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



30I 



hibition. At length Millet obeyed his friend's summons, 
and came to Paris, where he met with a warm welcome, 
and was able to realize the extent of his success. He 
was awarded a first-class medal, but not the coveted 
Cross, which Rousseau stoutly maintained should have 
been his by right. Millet himself, however, was quite 
content, and on his return to Barbizon, he wrote to 
Sensier : 

" 30 April, 1867. 
" You may imagine that I am very much pleased to hear I have 
got a first-class medal. Rousseau had already written to tell me 
this. I did not go to the Ingres Exhibition after all ; when I left 
you, I found Silvestre with Rousseau, and as Rousseau was going 
out, I went back with Silvestre, who was anxious that I should revise 
his descriptions of my pictures. This was decidedly of use. With 
certain exceptions, his descriptions are on the whole good, but they 
always incline towards his particular bent. I tried, timidly and 
discreetly, to suggest some things as to the sense in which I should 
wish my works to be understood, but when it is a question of 
oneself, it sounds conceited, and one seems to be making a fuss 
about nothing. His idea of the peasant is rather like Proudhon's 
notions. One detail — of no importance for the public, and which 
has none except in my own head — is that, in describing the 
Potato-planters, he speaks of an old piece of sheepskin in the man's 
sabots. If I tried to indicate anything there, it must have been straw. 
In my country, a man who had lined his sabots with sheepskin 
would have been an object of scorn. I let this little mistake pass, 
as I did not dare to make any more corrections. What he read me, 
it is true, were only notes, and not the whole of his article." 



Theophile Silvestre, the critic, 
foundly impressed with Millet's 
bition, became from that time one 
defenders, and the articles which 
are among the truest and most 
have appeared in print. And if 
scrupulous regard for absolute 



who had been so pro- 
pictures at the Exhi- 
of the master's stoutest 

he devoted to his work 
eloquent criticisms that 

Millet himself, in his 
truth, did not always 



302 



J. F. MILLET 



relish the language in which the writer expressed his 
admiration, he was grateful for the warmth of feeling 
which prompted his remarks. Early in June Silvestre 
sent him the articles on his pictures in the Exhibition, 
with a graceful little note, saying that however un- 
worthy of their subject, they were at least the honest 
expression of a man who realized the truth and great- 
ness of his art. 

Millet was then on his way to Vichy, with his wife, 
who had been ordered to take the baths the second time. 
On the 13th of June he wrote to Sensier: 

" The heat of yesterday was terrible. If it lasts, good-bye to my 
drawings ! Never will I go into a hot country unless I am abso- 
lutely obliged ! But we managed to take a little drive yesterday, 
and saw some wonderful things. It was a pity I could not work. 
The place we visited was called Malavaux — it is above Cusset. 
There are some exquisite subjects of every description. Only it 
is a long way off, too far to walk, and carriages are dear, 18 francs 
a day. But I shall go back there some day, when it is possible to 
work, for it is well worth the journey. I must also explore a place 
called l'Ardoisiere, which seems to be very fine. What a drawback 
this heat is ! " 



In spite of the heat, however, Millet managed to make 
several sketches in this neighbourhood, and the names 
of the different localities are familiar to us from his 
drawings. The Chapel of La Madeleine, near Cusset, the 
Farm on the Heights of l'Ardoisiere and the Fields of 
Malavaux, are among the water-colours of 1867. The 
hamlet of Cusset afterwards became the subject of an 
important picture. 

On the 26th of June, he wrote to Rousseau about an 
Exhibition of his friend's smaller studies, which had 
been opened in the Rue de Choiseul, and which had im- 
pressed him deeply : 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



m 



" My dear Rousseau, — 

" Here we are again, renewing our acquaintance with this 
gay world of Vichy. I have put off writing, day after day, fearing 
it might humiliate you to hear of us from here, you who are only 
in Paris ! The day after I left you I went to see the Exhibition. 
And I must tell you that knowing, as I did, both your Auvergne 
studies and your earlier ones, when I saw them brought together, 
I was once more struck with the sense that power is power from 
the very beginning. From the first you show a freshness of 
vision that leaves no doubt of the joy which you find in nature. 
It is easy to see that she has spoken to you directly, and that 
you look upon her with your own eyes. Cest de vous, et non de 
Vaultruy, as Montaigne says. Do not think that I am going 
to follow your progress, picture by picture, down to the present 
time. I only wish to name the point from which you started, 
which is the important thing, for it shows that you are a man 
of the true race. You were, from the first, the little plant which 
was destined to become the great oak. There ! I felt I must 
tell you once more that I have watched your growth with emotion. 
. . . We wish you and Madame Rousseau the best possible 
health, and embrace you. 

" Ever yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 

When Millet wrote this letter, he knew that his friend 
was ill and suffering. On his return home he found 
Rousseau in a melancholy state. His fits of excitement 
were followed by long periods of complete prostration, 
from which nothing could rouse him. His unhappy wife 
was out of her mind, but he refused to allow her to be 
removed and placed in charge of a doctor as his friends 
wished. Millet and his wife, filled with compassion for 
his forlorn condition, watched him tenderly, and spent 
the greater part of their days with him. For a week 
or two he seemed to get a little better. 



"Rousseau," wrote Millet on the 12th of August, "continues 
to improve, although yesterday was not a very good day. To-day 
he is better, and the doctor is satisfied. I hope that he may 



304 



J. F. MILLET 



recover, even if it is but slowly. Alfred Stevens and Puvis de 
Chavannes came this morning to inform Rousseau that he has 
been made an Officer of the Legion of Honour. My wife and I 
received them on the stairs, and begged them not to come up, for 
fear of disturbing him. I told him the good news, and he seemed 
very much pleased." 



A week or two later his doctors recommended a trip 
to Switzerland, in the hope that change and mountain 
air might arrest his malady. At first he refused to go, 
but Millet and his wife finally persuaded him to start, 
and themselves brought him to Paris. Here he had a 
paralytic seizure, and soon became too ill to go any 
further. His friends brought him back to Barbizon, 
and watched carefully over him during the sad weeks 
that followed. Millet came in regularly every evening 
to spend an hour or two with him, and the presence of 
this old friend seemed to cheer him more than anything 
else. But towards the end of September softening of the 
brain set in, and his condition became hopeless. In his 
lucid intervals he still talked of the pictures which he 
meant to paint, and one day he asked Sensier to send 
him some etchings. But on the 16th Millet wrote that 
it would be of no use to send them, for he was quite 
unable to look at them. All that week Millet and his 
wife remained at his bedside. They nursed him with 
the tenderest care, and sat up with him through the 
long and sleepless nights. Both of them were present 
when he died, on the 22nd of December. In his wan- 
derings he spoke repeatedly of Millet's pictures. "You 
have been to Millet's house," he said; "what fine things 
you must have seen there ! You were pleased, were you 
not? Ah! how beautiful they are!" A few minutes 
afterwards he passed away. That morning Millet sent 
the following telegram to announce the sad news to 
Sensier: "Rousseau died this morning at 9 o'clock. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 305 

Come." At the same time he sent the following notes 
to him and to their mutual friend, M. Feuardent: 

"My dear Sensier, — 

" I am all of a tremble, and feel quite unnerved. Our poor 
Rousseau died at nine o'clock this morning. His agony was very 
painful. He tried to speak several times, but his words were 
choked by the rattle in his throat. It is now half-past nine. Tell 
all those who ought to know. Tillot has sent a telegram to 
Besancon. I am also telling Silvestre." 

" My dear Friend, — 

" Our poor Rousseau died at nine o'clock this morning. We 
knew, by what the doctor said, that the end could not be far off, 
but we are none the less dismayed and overcome. His burial is 
fixed for next Tuesday, at one o'clock punctually. Come, if you 
can. We all embrace you. 

"J. F. Millet." 

Three days later he wrote to another friend : 

"25 December, 1867. 
"Dear Monsieur Chassaing, — 

"My poor friend, Theodore Rousseau, has just died at 
Barbizon, in the house where we once went to see him together. 
His illness was softening of the brain. You can imagine how it 
grieved us to hear him talk of all that he would do in the future ! 
For we knew, from the doctor, that his fate was sealed. He was 
conscious up to the last moment, and never dreamt that he was 
dying, unless it may have been quite at the end. But although I 
never left him, I saw no signs of this. He thought that his death- 
agony was only another seizure. Poor Rousseau ! his work killed 
him. And to think, my dear M. Chassaing, what an innumerable 
number of miserable men and fools are in excellent health ! This 
will explain why I have neglected you for so long, ever since we 
returned from Vichy, for, from that very moment, I have been 
completely taken up with my poor Rousseau, and have hardly been 
able to do any work." 

The next letter begins with an allusion to a petition 

x 



3o6 



J. F. MILLET 



which Millet and several of his friends had addressed to 
the Empress Eugenie, begging her to use her influence 
in preserving the picturesque part of the forest near 
Barbizon, known as the Bas Breau, which the Adminis- 
tration had doomed to destruction. M. Silvestre had 
drawn up the petition at Millet's request, and forwarded 
it to him for his signature: 

"Barbizon, 31 December, 1867. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

"I signed the petition to the Empress which Silvestre sent 
me. It seemed very well written. Francois [Millet's eldest son] 
is preparing a canvas upon which he intends to try and reproduce 
Rousseau's Sunset. Since you have, as I suppose, seen Tillot, he 
has no doubt given you all our news. The death of Rousseau 
haunts me still. I am so overcome with sadness and weariness 
that I can hardly work. But I must by some means or other try 
and conquer this feeling. Eight days have already passed since 
he was buried. Poor Rousseau ! How does he feel in his cold 
bed? 

" I have received a letter from M. Hartmann, saying that he 
has sent off three of Rousseau's pictures, although they have not 
as yet arrived. How do matters stand as to Rousseau's inheritance, 
and will the seals on the doors be soon taken off? Silvestre sends 
me a hastily-written note, to say that he has delivered my drawing 
to M. Pie"tri, who declared himself not only satisfied but amazed, 
and added some more very flattering expressions. The chief thing 
is that he should be satisfied. And so another year is gone where 
so many others have gone before ! Which of us can tell if he will 
live to see the end of the next one ? We wish you and yours every- 
thing that you may desire in the coming year." 



M. Pi6tri was the head of the police in Paris, and 
Silvestre, who was anxious to introduce Millet to the 
Emperor's notice, hoped to effect this through him. Un- 
fortunately nothing could be done without the help of 
Count Nieuwerkerke, the all-powerful Director of Fine 
Arts. This important personage was supposed to have 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



307 



an invincible dislike for Millet, whether it was that he 
looked upon him as a republican agitator, or whether, 
as is more probable, he expected the artist to solicit his 
favour in person. This, as we have already seen, Millet 
could not be induced to do. He would not stoop to court 
the protection of the great, or go a single step out of his 
way to gain the minister's good offices. But at last the 
noise of his fame reached the Emperor's ears, and one 
day he asked Count Nieuwerkerke to let him see some 
of these peasant-pictures that were so much praised. 
The Director sent for Millet's pictures from the Salon, 
and brought them to the Tuileries. His Majesty was 
not particularly impressed with the sight. "Enough!" 
he said : " the noise about this painter of sabots is a 
vulgar one." 

Millet himself was comparatively indifferent to the 
result of his friends' efforts. By this time he was in- 
dependent ol Court patronage. To bring up his family 
in comfort and record as many of his impressions as 
possible were henceforth his sole aims. But he was 
much more seriously concerned at the destruction of his 
favourite corner of the forest, which to his grief he 
witnessed that winter. 

"Yes, my poor Berger," he wrote to a friend in Paris, "they are 
cutting down part of the forest, in the Bas Breau. The Adminis- 
tration insists, and must be obeyed. For some distance around 
nothing is to be heard but the blows of the axe and the noise of 
falling trees." 



In the same letter, which was originally published by 
M. Andre Michel in the Gazette des Beaux- Arts, 1887, 
he speaks of his dislike for Paris and town life — a feel- 
ing which grew upon him more every year of his life. 

" It is always a great effort for me to go to Paris. I far prefer 
the walks that I take, when my day's work is done, in the forest or 



3 o8 



J. F. MILLET 



on the plain, than those which one is forced to make on your 
asphalt or your macadam. I had rather see the peasants — men and 
women — at work on the plain watching their sheep or cows, or the 
wood-cutters in the forest (alas ! only too many are to be seen there 
now !) than all the pomade-washed heads of your clerks and city 
folk ! " 



During that winter, Millet was engaged in winding 
up poor Rousseau's affairs. He took charge of his 
friend's unhappy wife, now an incurable lunatic, and 
helped Sensier look over the dead man's papers and 
dispose of his pictures. Finally, he reared a monument 
over Rousseau's grave, in the new cemetery at Chailly, 
such as the painter himself would have chosen. Rocks 
were brought from the forest, and young trees were 
planted among them. A simple wooden cross was placed 
at the head of the grave, and as long as Millet lived 
the enclosure was kept bright with flowers. 

" I have had a fine young oak brought there with the rocks from 
the forest," he wrote to Sensier on the 20th of March, "which is 
likely to flourish and spread its boughs out well. The holly must 
be planted after the stones are set in their place, for it would be in 
the way before that, and might be injured by the work." 

So he paid the last offices to this friend whom he had 
lovei so long, and whose well-earned rest he was half 
inclined to envy. 

"Let us talk of our dear dead together," he said to 
Sensier. " But be well assured that they have reached 
a place of refreshment, of light and peace." 

But his own health suffered severely from the shock, 
and those who knew him best said that he was never 
the same again after Rousseau's death. His headaches 
became worse than ever that winter. He wrote few 
letters, and could only work at intervals; but he com- 
menced several pictures for Rousseau's friend, the Munster 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

manufacturer, M. Frederic Hartmann. 
April he wrote to Sensier : 



309 
On the 17th of 



" My headaches have been so bad that till to-day I have not had 
the courage to send you the measurements for M. Hartmann's 
pictures. Here they are : four canvases, measuring 1 metre 10 by 
o m. 85. Three of these are to be of a dark shade of pinkish lilac. 
The other, yellow ochre. Please send them as soon as possible." 

A month later, Sensier wrote to tell him of M. Mar- 
montel's sale, in which his Washerwoman, a small 
picture which has been repeatedly engraved, sold for 
4,000 francs, and his End of the Village of Gre'ville for 
4,900 francs. He replied on the 14th of May : 

"I should certainly have liked my Village to have fetched a 
better price, but I am satisfied with that of the Washerwoman. 
You must tell me the price of the Diaz, Dupres, Fromentins and 
Daubignys. If you can find time, please urge Blanchet to send my 
canvases, for I am anxious to set to work at M. Hartmann's Spring." 

The return of spring, and the sight of opening leaves 
and flowers, had once more stirred fresh life in him. 
He set to work on this picture of the favourite meadow 
at the back of his house, and painted the rainbow span- 
ning the storm-clouds behind the flowering apple-trees. 
But he soon had to lay down his brush and take his 
wife to Vichy to complete her cure. Here the country 
seemed to him as before, full of interest and beauty, but 
he was too unwell to work, and made very few 
sketches. 

"Vichy, 3 July, 1868. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" The children will have told you that we were rather vexed to 
find our old rooms taken when we arrived here. My headaches 
have been incessant, and as yet I have not been able to work. I 
am in despair at having done nothing, and it is already more than 
a week since we left home. We have taken two drives, and seen 



3io 



J. F. MILLET 



some beautiful things. The country round Cusset is superb. If I 
had not been so suffering, I would have told you my impressions 
of this part of the country, as well as of the people at the Baths. 
If my brain can retain them, I will let you have them some day. 
I can only give Burty the date of my birth, October 4. It is 
impossible for me to say the exact date of my arrival in Paris. But 
I think it must have been early in 1837. I can remember certain 
facts of that troubled period which have survived the lapse of years, 
but the dates have absolutely vanished from my mind." 

"Vichy, 18 July, 1868. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We took two or three drives during our first days here. We 
paid another visit to the Chateau of Busset-Bourbon. The house 
has still a character of its own, although it has been a good deal 
restored. But the beautiful thing is the situation. What primitive 
and melancholy landscapes one sees in those parts ! I hope to go 
back there, and perhaps even spend a day at the place, so as to 
make as many sketches as possible. But who can tell what may 
happen ? How well those people knew how to choose the site of 
their houses ! I must tell you about it all when I come home." 

" Barbizon, 24 July, 1868. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We got back to Barbizon on the evening of the day before 
yesterday, rather tired by the fearful heat in the railway and the 
immense amount of dust we had to swallow. I am in despair at 
the time I have wasted. I have brought back so little that it is 
hardly worth talking about. But I believe that certain things have 
sunk into my soul, which I will try to put down while they are 
still fresh in my mind." 



That year Millet sent nothing to the Salon; but when 
the medals were distributed at the close of the Exhibi- 
tion, he was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour. 
The ceremony took place in the great hall of the Louvre ; 
and when the Marshal Vaillant, the new Minister of 
Fine Arts, read out the name of Millet, there was so 
loud and unexpected an outburst of applause that the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



II 



venerable President lost his presence of mind, and was 
unable to go on with his speech. That day was a signal 
triumph for the peasant-painter, and its memory lived 
long in the hearts of his friends. But Millet himself 
recked little of imperial rewards or popular applause. 
He worked on silently at home, content if he was only 
well enough to paint. In September he took a week's 
holiday, and, after visiting M. Hartmann in Alsace, 
went on with Sensier to Switzerland. They saw the 
museum and the cathedral at Bale, and visited Lucerne, 
Berne, and Zurich. But the weather was bad, the rain 
fell in torrents, and Millet was homesick. " I am long- 
ing to be back at Barbizon," he wrote to his wife ; and 
the next day he says, " The trial du pays continues, and 
I must return." 

Still this little journey seems to have done his health 
good, and M. Hartmann wrote to Sensier on the 29th of 
Octobers 

" I am glad to hear that Millet's health is better. I heard with 
concern of his recent troubles. We will take great care of him 
here if he ever pays us another visit." 



His letters throughout the autumn were few and far 
between, and the troubles of which M. Hartmann speaks 
were probably caused by illness in his family. Four 
short notes are all that M. Mantz could find belonging 
to this period. The first two relate to a volume, entitled 
Sonnets and Etchings, which was published that winter 
by M. Lemerre. M. Burty was the editor, and at his 
request Millet was asked to contribute a plate. At the 
same time M. Albert Merat composed a sonnet on a 
drawing which the artist had made for M. Gavet, re- 
presenting two young peasant-girls watching a flight 
of birds across the sky. Millet had meanwhile made an 
etching of an Auvergne peasant-woman spinning and 



312 



J. F. MILLET 



watching her goats, and was surprised to find that his 
drawing had been expected to correspond with the poet's 
verses. 

"Barbizon, 8 November, 1868. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" M. Albert Me>at has sent me his sonnet in print. He 
imagines that I have made, or am going to make, an etching on 
the same subject. I must tell him that this is not the case, and 
inform him of what I am really doing. His letter is very amiable. 
I am working at my etching, and the copper is half finished. If 
my headaches are not too bad, you will find it ready by St. Martin's 
Day." 

"Barbizon, November 11. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" I start at two o'clock to-day to go to Paris and have my 
etching printed. If I do not see you to-night, I will see you to- 
morrow morning before I go to Burty's house." 

" Barbizon, 23 December. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" Yesterday the service for the anniversary of Rousseau's burial 
was held at Chailly. Of course, the Tillots and all of us were 
there. Of artists, only Laine and Lombard were present. From 
Paris, no one. After the service in church we all went to the 
churchyard. I forgot to say that the eldest of Bodmer's sons and 
Babcock were also present." 

The last day of the year had come round once more, 
and. constant to his practice, Millet wrote a few lines 
to Sensier on the 31st of December: 

" So another year will be ended to-night. I am not going to 
moralize on the subject. I will only tell you that I write at the 
close of the day, and that I am recalling old memories, and think- 
ing of those who are gone. O sad thoughts ! We wish you and 
yours the fewest possible troubles, and the most complete fulfil- 
ment of your desires. And, young and old, we all of us embrace 
you." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



13 



XVIII 



1869-187 I 

THE book of Sonnets and Etchings proved a source 
of great annoyance to Millet. When 350 copies 
had been printed, Lemerre's plan was to destroy the 
plates, so that no further proofs could be published. 
Forty-one of the contributors — among whom were Corot, 
Jacquemart, Daubigny, Bracquement, Ribot, and Seymour- 
Haden — had consented to this. Millet alone objected 
being unable to see why a work of art should be doomed 
to destruction in order to raise the price and increase 
the rarity of the publication ; but since the other artists 
had agreed, and he did not wish to be treated with ex- 
ceptional favour, he consented in the end. The whole 
thing, however, was sorely against his will, as we learn 
from the following letters : 

" Barbizon, 9 January, 1869. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

"The publisher Lemerre first wrote to me about the destruc- 
tion of my plate. I did not reply. Then Burty wrote in his turn, 
and gave a whole pile of reasons, good and bad, in order to make 
me consent to the proposed destruction. As I do not wish to ask 
favours, or to be treated differently from others, I wrote to Burty, 
three days ago, begging him to treat my plate exactly as they treated 
the rest. It seemed to me that they might raise endless difficulties 
if I took any other course, and it was better to have done with 

them." 

"15 January. 

"I have received the book of Sonnets. My etching comes out 

very badly." 



3*4 



J. F. MILLET 



" 24 January, 1869. 
"As I told you, I have consented to the destruction of my plate 
in spite of my desire to preserve it. Between ourselves, I think 
this destruction of plates is the most brutal and barbarous thing 
possible. I do not know enough about trade to understand its 
object, but I reflect that if Rembrandt or Ostade had each made 
one of these plates they would all the same have been destroyed. 
Enough of the subject, however ! " 

The death of Rousseau's unhappy wife, in February, 
1869, renewed Millet's sadness, and recalled many tender 
memories of the past. On the 16th he wrote to Sensier: 

"The terrible death of poor Madame Rousseau has made us 
very sad. It has stirred up many thoughts of old days in my mind. 
This poor creature has been hardly used by the course of events. 
I cannot think without emotion what care she used to take of me 
when I was ill. God knows I only remember now the good that 
she has done me ! I pray for the peace of her poor soul. You 
will know that I am very unwell if you do not see me at Charenton 
to-morrow." 

" Barbizon, 17 February, 1869. 
" Dear Madame Feuardent, — 

"Sensier will no doubt have informed you of poor Madame 
Rousseau's death. Naturally I meant to attend her funeral to-day, 
but a bad headache prevented me from starting as I had intended. 
I am quite distressed at this. I did not wish to seem indifferent to 
the disappearance of this poor fragment of Rousseau." 



Sensier sent him a portfolio of Japanese prints to look 
at, in the hope of diverting his thoughts ; but, much as 
he admired some of the Japanese work, these examples 
did not appeal to him. 

" I agree with you," he wrote on the 25th of February, " in 
thinking the album which you have sent me very rich and splendid 
in the arrangement of colours, but that is about all that pleases 
me. I do not see that fidelity to nature and humanity which, as a 
rule, lies at the root of all Japanese art. It is a rare and curious 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



3^5 



object rather than anything else, and I should prefer to spend my 
money in buying some more natural Japanese drawings (if you 
should happen to see any), or some fifteenth-century woodcuts. 
It is impossible for me to send anything to Bordeaux. I am work- 
ing with all the strength I have left to finish my Knitting Lesson in 
time for the Salon. If I cannot bring it up to a certain point, I 
shall not send it, you may be quite sure. I fancy this picture has 
improved since you saw it." 

"10 March. 
" I forgot to tell you that I have received an important order for 
the Museum of Montpellier, through M. Bruyas. Nothing is yet 
settled, for M. Bruyas asked Silvestre to find out if I would under- 
take it, and I am waiting to see him before I settle the terms of the 
commission. I will copy the passage from M. Bruyas' letter which 
Silvestre quotes. It sounds very formal. ... I am sending 
to see if there are any flowers on Rousseau's grave. I hope to have 
finished my picture by the 20th. Some days I am very much dis- 
contented with it, others I am less so. To-day I think it is toler- 
able." 

Five days afterwards he wrote: 

" My picture seems to me empty and insignificant." 

Fortunately the critics thought differently; and when 
this picture of the peasant-mother teaching her little 
girl to knit appeared at the Salon, it was hailed as one 
of the best of Millet's domestic subjects — a true poem of 
the peasant-hearth. 

We hear little of Millet's private affairs at this time. 
The daily struggle for bread, which at one time occupied 
so large a part of his thoughts, was over; his daily 
needs were no longer pressing. We find no urgent re- 
quests for money, and hear no more of that terrible end 
of the month which at one period seemed to be always 
coming round. He had as many orders as he could 
execute, and was fairly paid for his work. Madame 
Millet had recovered her health. The children were 



^m^m 



316 



J. F. MILLET 



growing up. His son Francois had become an artist, 
and was working hard at his profession. He shared his 
father's atelier, and was his constant and devoted com- 
panion. The two eldest daughters were already married. 
Marie had become the wife of a son of Millet's old 
friend, M. Feuardent — the young clerk who used to lend 
him books at Cherbourg long ago, and who, in the pros- 
perity of his later years, had never lost sight of this 
comrade of his early youth. Louise had married M. 
Gilbert Saignier, and, like her sister, lived in the more 
immediate neighbourhood of Paris, but was often at Bar- 
bizon. The old home was a bright and cheerful place, gay 
with the presence of children and grandchildren, and of 
the guests who were always coming and going. It was 
a peaceful, happy time, only darkened by Millet's own ill- 
health, and those constant headaches which interrupted his 
work and threw a gloom over the whole household. But 
he still executed new drawings for M. Gavet, and spent 
the first months of 1870 in working at two pictures for the 
next Salon. One of these was the large autumn landscape, 
called November, in which the painter-poet gave utter- 
ance to the sad and solemn thoughts that haunted him 
at the close of the year. The other was La Grande 
Baratteuse — the picture of a handsome young fermidre, 
with bare arms, churning butter by hand in the primi- 
tive fashion of Gr6ville. She is represented wearing the 
white cap, the long apron and sabots of the Norman 
peasant. The massive beams of the oaken roof, the pots 
and pans along the shelves of the dairy, are all exactly 
reproduced. Even the cat is there, pressing up against 
his mistress, evidently on the look-out for any drop of 
cream which may chance to fall on the dairy floor. The 
picture itself is now at New York, but has been ex- 
cellently reproduced in many different forms. One fine 
version in pastel is now in the Luxembourg; another 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



317 



belongs to Mr. J. S. Forbes, and was lately exhibited at 
the Grafton Gallery. During this winter Sensier was 
engaged in writing his Souvenirs sur Theodore Rousseau, 
which appeared in monthly instalments in the Revue 
Internationale des Arts in the course of 1869 and 1870, 
and were afterwards published in a separate volume. 
Millet helped him in preparing the work, and was able 
to supply much valuable information. A letter which 
he wrote to Sensier on the critic Thor£, and the discus- 
sions which he used to have with him and Rousseau 
twenty years before, is a striking instance of his powers 
of memory. 



"Barbizon, 1 February, 1870. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" It would be hardly possible to sum up our conversations 
with Thore in a few words. I will tell you more than you want 
to know, and if you find anything I have said is of use, you can 
pick it out for yourself. Thore, whom I had never met before, 
seemed to me to look at art like a learned catalogue-writer, rather 
than a man touched by the meaning of a work of art, even when 
he spoke of Rembrandt, which was his especial subject. He would 
say of a picture : That was painted in such a year, in such a 
medium ; and tell us how certain masters signed themselves, up 
to a certain date, or explain that Hemling was no longer called 
Memling — a highly important discovery made, he informed us, by 

the learned X . Rousseau used to whisper to me : ' He is 

not Thore any longer ! the wise men have quite spoilt him ! ' It 
irritated Rousseau to see Thore look at his pictures and say : 
'This one is painted in the same style as Rembrandt,' and then 
proceed to explain his reasons. Rousseau thought that his pictures 
might have suggested some more interesting remark ! In the end 
we had a very animated discussion with Thore on his theory, 
that the elevation of a work must depend entirely upon the nature 
of the subject. Here, Rousseau and I were both against him. I 
let Rousseau talk, as he was quite strong enough to defend him- 
self, and I did not know Thore well, but eventually I was dragged 
into the fray. I tried to show Thore that greatness consisted in 



3Io J- F. MILLET 

the artist's thought, and that everything became great when it was 
employed for a great object. 

" A prophet comes to threaten a people with plagues and terrible 
desolation, and God speaks in this way by his mouth : ' The locust 
and the caterpillar, my great army that I sent among you,' etc. 
And the prophet gives such a description of their ravages that it 
is impossible to imagine a scene of greater desolation. I asked 
him if the threat would have seemed more terrible if instead of 
locusts the prophet had spoken of kings and chariots of war. He 
goes on to show how great and complete is the devastation — nothing 
is spared. ' The field is wasted, the land moumeth ; be ye ashamed, 

ye husbandmen ; howl, O ye vine-dressers, because the harvest 
of the field is perished ! And the wild asses and all the beasts 
of the field cry out, for there is no more grass.' There the fulness 
of desolation is realized, and the imagination is at once impressed. 

1 know not if he was convinced, but at least he was silenced. 
You saw him, however, on his return to Paris, and may remember 
what he said to you. I always thought he was a little provoked 
when he left us. 

" Here is the thaw. As soon as it is possible, I will see that 
your trees are planted." 

On the 1 6th of March he wrote again, before the Salon 
opened : 



" My dear Sensier, — 

" Be so kind as to find out the dates of the medals, etc., 
which I have received, by the catalogue of last year's Salon, as I 
must mention this, when I send in my pictures to the Palais de 
l'lndustrie. I have no Salon catalogue by me, and do not know 
where to find the information for which I ask, and I shall probably 
only arrive in Paris at the last moment. My pictures are in the 
atelier of De Knyff, since he insisted on having them placed there. 
I am not sorry to see them in a larger studio than my own. They 
look best at some distance, but then the light there is good, and 
in the Exhibition it is detestable. If you do not know it already, 
I must tell you that De Knyff has bought my Woman Churning." 

A week later the jury of the Salon was elected, and 
Millet, to his surprise, found his own name fourth on the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



3*9 



list. So the man, whose own pictures had been so often 
rejected, became himself a member of the jury, and took 
his seat among the judges. His own pictures at the 
Salon that year were generally commended, especially 
the Baratteuse. But he spent little time in Paris, and 
was busy putting the last touches to two works which 
had been for some time in his atelier at Barbizon. The 
first, La Fileuse — a young peasant-woman sitting at her 
spinning-wheel in her cottage home — was one of those 
charming little pictures of domestic interiors in which 
Millet excelled, and which he had painted, as he said, 
with the sound of the spinning-wheels of his home still 
in his ears. The other was an altogether new and 
original subject — Les Tueurs de Cochons. At first sight 
the theme hardly seemed to lend itself to pictorial repre- 
sentation. Two peasants, in blue hose and sabots, are 
seen trying with all their might to drag a large hog 
from its stye. Their efforts are assisted, on the one 
hand, by a young woman who tries to tempt the pig 
with a bucket of green stuff, while on the other, an old 
man, armed with a large knife, leans his whole weight 
against the refractory animal. The different actors in 
the scene are brought before us, and their various sensa- 
tions are realized in a masterly way. The sullen ob- 
stinacy and despair of the poor brute, who, conscious, as 
it were, of the fate awaiting him, plants his feet firmly 
in the ground and refuses to stir, the half-frightened, 
half-amused look of the small child behind, the very atti- 
tude of the family cat, arching his back and hissing as 
he surveys the scene from the top of the wall, all help 
to make us feel the tragic nature of the incident. Even 
the leafless trees, at the back of the courtyard, and the 
leaden hues of the winter sky overhead seem to heighten 
its solemn meaning. 

An old friend of Millet's early Barbizon days, the 



3-2Q 



J. F. MILLET 



American artist, Edward Wheelwright, has told us how, 
in the summer of 1870, he came back to Paris with his 
wife, and brought her to see the famous village and its 
yet more famous painter. One day in June, they knocked 
at the door of Millet's atelier. It w r as opened by the 
master himself, who welcomed his old friend cordially 
and invited him and his wife to come in. The place 
looked just the same as when Wheelwright had left Bar- 
bizon fourteen years before. The only difference he 
noticed was that Millet's books had greatly increased in 
numbers, and lay piled up together upon the floor. And 
Millet himself was hardly changed in appearance. He 
had grown a little stouter, and there were a few more 
silver threads in his hair and beard, but his face and 
expression had not altered in the least, and he wore the 
same loose jersey and sabots in which his friend had 
seen him last. The picture of Les Tueurs de Cochons 
stood on the easel. Millet was working at it when his 
visitors arrived, and trying to deepen the shadows and 
bring out the rich tones of red in the picture. His guests 
were much impressed by the power and reality of the 
group, and the artist's wife spoke of the deep pathos of 
the subject. "Madame," replied Millet, " c'est un drame." 
Before the picture was finished, war had broken out 
between France and Germany, and the peace of Millet's 
home at Barbizon was rudely disturbed. The terrible 
events of that summer-time were felt in every household. 
Both of Millet's newly-married daughters saw their 
husbands go out to fight for their country, and Sensier 
was sent to Tours and afterwards to Bordeaux, by order 
of the Minister of the Interior. When the enemies 
marched on Paris, Millet felt that Barbizon was no longer 
a safe place for his family. On the 27th of August, a 
few days before the catastrophe of Sedan, he left home 
with his wife and children, and all the pictures that he 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



321 



could carry with him. They moved to Cherbourg, where 
M. Feuardent, his son-in-law's father, having taken 
refuge in England himself, lent them the use of his house. 
Here they remained for nearly a whole year, while the 
tide of war rolled over the land. Millet was deeply moved 
by the national disasters and the sorrows of his own 
friends, and for some time he was too much agitated to 
be able to work. By degrees, however, he recovered his 
calmness of mind, and began to paint the sea and boats, 
from a window on the third floor overlooking the coast. 
The sight of the old country had stirred his love for 
these scenes of his boyhood. He gazed with passionate 
yearning on the wide sea and vast horizon which had 
filled his young heart with longing, and felt nearer to 
the infinite. 

The letters which he wrote to Sensier at Tours and 
Bordeaux, and to Feuardent in London, at this time, are 
strangely pathetic, both in their lamentations over the 
woes of his unhappy land, and in the tender love which 
they breathe for every corner of his old home : 

"Cherbourg, 22 September, 1870. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

"I have only to-day received your letter of the 17th. I am 
glad to know you are at Tours and not in Paris. We are well in 
health, but full of anxieties. . . . All correspondence seems 
to be interrupted. Alas ! how long is this to last ! And when 
we hear news, what will it be ? Our heads and hearts alike seem 
fixed in a vice. Here the Prussians are daily expected to invade 
us. Every one is arming, but Cherbourg, however formidably 
defended on the side of the sea, is not fortified by land. It is 
said the Cotentin is to be flooded. . . . It is absolutely im- 
possible for me to draw a single pencil line out of doors. I should 
be strangled or shot on the spot. One day I was arrested, dragged 
before a military tribunal, and only released after application had 
been made to the mayor for information about me, and then not 
without a caution never to hold, or even pretend to hold, a pencil 
in future." 

Y 



322 



J. F. MILLET 



To M. Feuardent: 

"Cherbourg, 4 October, 1870. 
" My poor Friend, — 

"Here we are, encamped in your house of the Rue Hervieu. 
If the horrible reason of our presence here could be removed, we 
should not be unhappy in our present quarters. How the tempest 
of affliction has scattered and divided us all, my poor friend ! We 
must put a bridle upon our lips, not to give way to idle complain- 
ings, for really it is necessary to do violence to our feelings if 
we are not to be in a perpetual state of lamentation. And to 
think that the authors of all our miseries are not even touched by 
them, and continue to enjoy all the luxuries of life as if nothing 
had happened ! Ah ! indeed, they deserve the curses of France ! 
"I have done very little since we came here. My poor head 
is tormented with anxiety and sadness. What would certainly 
have stirred me up to work are the things which I cannot help 
seeing whenever I go out, either in the country or on the seashore. 
But, just imagine, I should be immediately seized and probably 
torn in pieces, if I were seen with merely a note-book and a pencil. 
Even without a note-book, and with only my walking stick in my 
hand, I have been stopped and questioned half-a-dozen times, in 
the sternest way. Every one is in the greatest state of terror. 
There is far more alarm than resolution. . . . But to come back 
to my work. I have three little sea pictures in progress, which I 
work at on the third floor, where the light is good, as long as 
one window is stopped up. Really our old country is beautiful, 
and every day I feel the more how great a pleasure it would be to 
see it again in any other circumstances ! But really, when I forget 
myself a little, and begin to take pleasure in the sight of these 
things, I feel that I am selfish and begin to hate myself! The 
Barye family are here, and also the Silvestres. . . . My poor 
friends, we embrace you with open arms. 

"Ever yours, 

"J. F. Millet." 



"Cherbourg, January 9, 1871. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" You cannot imagine the joy with which I received your 
letter. I thought that you must be at Bordeaux. . . . When ? 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



323 



ah ! when shall we ever get out of this horrible condition ? Ah ! 
how I hate everything German ! I am in a continual ferment. 
Curses and ruin upon them all ! I feel that my strength is ex- 
hausted, but with what little I have left I wish that neither you 
nor yours may be too rudely shaken by this fearful blow. Death 
is reaping a fine harvest ! The past year and the coming one 
have been two fruitful seasons ! " 

"Cherbourg, 27 February, 187 1. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

"We have just received a telegram with the news of peace, 
which you, of course, know already. We have not yet heard the 
conditions, and our ignorance, alas ! helps us to imagine that they 
are sweet and gentle ! At least we may be thankful to think that 
Barbizon and our houses there have escaped ruin. I dare not 
think of the German entry into Paris, nor of all they will do there. 
When will our poor Paris recover its usual aspect? for we have 
still good reason to fear the action of the different parties in the 
State. Nothing, we know, stops them, and they try to get on by 
making use of the people's miserable condition. Oh ! horrible 
wickedness ! 

" I have not been able to work much since we have been here, 
partly owing to my bad health and the trouble in my head ; partly 
because I could not make the smallest sketch, for fear of being 
torn in pieces as a Prussian ! I do not imagine this will last long, 
and hope that soon I may be able to draw a little. What beautiful 
things there are to do, if my thoughts were not so distracted ! I 
have lately sent two pictures to Durand-Ruel, one big and one 
little. We embrace you all very heartily." 



The art critic, Silvestre, who was also at Cherbourg, 
has left us a description of one of these pictures, which 
were sent by Millet to London, where M. Durand-Ruel, the 
dealer, had taken refuge, carrying with him the Angelus 
and a number of the finest works of the Barbizon painters. 
The following letter, which he addressed to Millet's old 
Gr6ville friend, Doctor Asselin, gives us an interesting 
glimpse of the great master and his family in their tern- 



324 



J. F. MILLET 



porary home, and describes the picture of the sea and 
rocks of Gruchy which he had painted after a two-days' 
visit to his old home. 

"Cherbourg, 25 February, 1871. 
" Dear M. Asselin, — 

"You will have found Millet at table with his wife, his nine 
children and his two sons-in-law (who have lately returned from 
the defence of Paris) — a patriarchal gathering for this year 187 1, 
and in these days of shame, of ruin and massacre. I am sorry 
you were not with our dear great master two days earlier. You 
would have been struck by the sea-pictures which he has just 
sent to London. Would you like to know the subject, or at 
least hear the impression which it produced upon me ? It is 
an intense and vivid recollection of the cliffs of Gruchy, near the 
Castel (a well-known promontory of rocks on the Greville coast), 
with the sea, the wide sea as it is seen from the top of the tower- 
ing rocks in its calm and infinite extent, under a far-reaching 
horizon bathed in misty sunlight. . . . The loneliness of earth, 
sky and sea so rendered the more striking by the presence of a few 
living creatures. Sailing boats lost in the dim sea-fog, sea-gulls 
screaming and circling in the air, sheep wandering over the deso- 
late pastures, — these solitary figures are all that speak to us of 
life in the vast, Ossian-like landscape. . . . This poetic picture, 
this great canticle of praise, as powerful as it is original and yet 
bound by spiritual affinity to all that is beautiful in the Bible, in 
Dante and Michelangelo, ought to be called a psalm of earth, sea 
and sky. Millet has reached the height of his career and has 
shown us how the sublime is to be found in the simplest and 
commonest subjects. The more he simplifies this theme, the more 
deeply he moves us. From the top of the cliffs of Gruchy, what 
flights he takes! Qui dat pennas ? 

" Ever yours, 

"Th. Silvestre." 



"Cherbourg, 16 March, 1871. 

" It would be impossible, my dear Sensier, to tell you the moment 

of our return to Barbizon. I should not be surprised if we were to 

remain here for part of the summer. The absolute impossibility 

of doing anything from nature hitherto, and the sight of so many 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



325 



beautiful things which I may never see again, and which are very 
precious when they are noted down, all this I feel compel me to 
remain here. On the other hand Paris is not likely to trouble its 
head at present about works of art. As my whole household is 
here, I will at least try that this ill wind which blew me here 
shall be of some good, and imitate the children who make use of 
a fall to pick up something on the ground." 

While Millet lingered on in his beloved Normandy, he 
little dreamt that a new revolution had broken out in 
Paris, and that the horror of the coming weeks would 
overshadow all the past horrors of that terrible year. 
The news of the Communist revolt filled his mind with 
fresh dismay, and on the 9th of April he wrote to 
Sensier : 

" We are glad to hear that you are at Barbizon. What a terrible 
mess we are in ! What is going to happen to us ? I will not even 
talk of it, for it seems to me that all the powers of hell have been 
let loose. . . . My dear Sensier, take as much pleasure as you 
can in nature, for she at least endures. For my part I try as far as 
possible, but not as much as I should like, to divert my thoughts 
from all these horrors which I cannot prevent, and throw myself into 
my work. Happily Durand-Ruel asks me for pictures, but as yet 
I have not been able to send him many. I am working at one 
which I hope to finish as soon as possible, and at the same time, 
to the best of my ability. This country is really very moving and 
retains much of its old character. If you shut your eyes to a few 
modern innovations, you might fancy yourself in the days of 
Breughel. Many of the villages remind me of old tapestries. 
These lovely velvet meadows ! What a pity the cows cannot 
paint ! " 



Amidst all the tales of horror and bloodshed which 
filled the newspapers during those spring days, Millet was 
surprised to read in La France that a group of Paris 
artists, who had banded themselves together in the cause 
of anarchy, had enrolled his name in their list, and 



326 



J. F. MILLET 



blazoned it upon the standard which they raised. He 
wrote at once to several papers, saying that he totally 
declined the honour which had been done him without 
his knowledge or sanction. 

"Cherbourg, 25 April. 
"Sir,— 

" The number of the journal, La France, for Sunday, the 23rd 
of this month, informs me that I have been named a member of 
an association of artists, styling itself La Federation des Artistes de 
Paris. I refuse the honour which has been offered me. I shall 
be obliged if you will kindly insert this note in your paper, and 
accept my best thanks and compliments. 

"J. F. Millet." 

At the same time he wrote to Sensier on the 2nd ol 
May : 

" Is not all that is going on in Paris too miserable ? Did you 
see that I was elected a member of the Federation des Artistes ■? 
What do they take me for ? I have replied : ' I do not accept the 
honour which has been offered me.' What a set of wretches they 
all are ! Courbet, of course, is their President. Our age may well 
be called the time of the great slaughter. We might cry with the 
prophet, ' O sword of the Lord, wilt thou never rest ? ' I have 
not courage to speak of the spring, which returns all the same in 
the midst of these horrible events." 

On the 27th of May, the day after the destruction of 
the Tuileries and Hotel de Ville and massacre of the 
Archbishop, he wrote with a breaking heart : 



" My dear Sensier, — 

"Is it not awful to think what these wretches have made of 
Paris ! These enormities are without all precedent. The Vandals 
were public benefactors by the side of these men. They, at least, 
only sacked the cities of their enemies. Poor Delacroix, who was 
so anxious to decorate the public buildings \ What would he have 
said?" 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



327 



"Cherbourg, 20 June, 1871. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We have been spending two days at Greville, where we had 
not yet been all together. I had been there for two days, all alone, 
in November, but not since then. It filled me with deep and sad 
emotion to come back as a stranger to the house where I was 
born, and where my parents lived and died. When I look at that 
poor house, my heart seems as if it would burst. Oh, what 
thoughts it recalls ! I also walked through the fields, where I used 
to work. Where are those who worked there with me? Where 
are the dear eyes that gazed with me over the boundless seas ? 
To-day these fields belong to strangers, who have the right to ask 
what I am doing there, and, if they choose, can turn me out. I 
am full of sad and melancholy thoughts, my poor friend. I can 
think of nothing else just now. All this takes hold of me and 
oppresses me." 

But sad as were the memories which the sight of 
Greville stirred in the painter's heart, the place had for 
him an irresistible attraction, and a few weeks later he 
moved with his whole family to the village inn, close to 
the church at Greville. On the 12th of August he wrote 
to Sensier : 



" We have been for some time past at the inn of GreVille. I am 
going to accomplish, at length, what has long been my wish, and 
make a picture of some part of the coast near my home. I am 
taking sketches for this purpose. During the first part of our stay 
here, I was much hindered by the rain and wind ; now I am equally 
troubled by the great heat and the glare of the sun, which make my 
eyes painful. If the wind which interfered with my work at first 
had only blown from the north, it would have supplied the effect 
that I want for my picture, but we have always had these south-west 
winds, which, blowing off the land, meet the tide and prevent the 
waves from rising. And lately the wind has kept in that quarter 
with amazing persistence. But I hope it will soon consent to go 
round to the north, were it only for a few minutes, and that will 
suffice to recall the effect which I have so often seen, and know so 
well. Oh, how I wish, my dear Sensier, that you could see my 



328 



J. F. MILLET 



native place with me ! I fancy this country would please you in 
many ways, and that you would understand how it is that I grow 
more and more attached to it. No doubt I have reasons to love 
the place which other people cannot have — the memory of my 
parents and of my youth ; but I think that its natural beauty alone 
would be sufficient to attract any man who is open to these im- 
pressions. Oh, once more, how truly I belong to my native soil ! " 



When Sensier received this letter, he himself was very 
sad and weary. He had lost many of his friends', and 
had suffered much in the war. The thought of seeing Millet 
again, and visiting the painter's native village with him, 
was full of consolation. " In these sad times," he wrote, 
" when all seems crumbling into ruin around us, we will 
find comfort in meeting and speaking of our dear dead." 
In September he wrote the concluding pages of his book 
on Rousseau, and dedicated it in affectionate terms to 
Millet. On the 3rd of October, he arrived at Cherbourg, 
and accompanied Millet to Greville. Together they 
visited the church of Greville and the hamlet of Gruchy. 
Millet showed his friend the graves of his parents and 
grandmother under the tall poplars of the little church- 
yard, and the house and garden of the old home. Tears 
stood in his eyes as, step by step, he pointed out each 
familiar scene, and Sensier felt as if he were walking in 
the midst of Millet's pictures. After that, they made 
expeditions in the neighbourhood, and visited Eculleville 
and the valley of Sabine, the priory of Vauville, and the 
Hameau Cousin, which afterwards became the subjects of 
some of Millet's last works. At the end of ten days, Sensier 
went back to Barbizon, and his friends prepared to follow 
him in the course of another fortnight. Two notes were 
written by Millet from Cherbourg, where he and his 
family spent a short time on their way to Paris. 

On the 26th of October, he condoles with Sensier on 
the death of another friend, the artist and writer, Joly 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



329 



Grangedor. "How busy death is! I did not know poor 
Grangedor much, but he seemed to me a very sympathetic 
man. I have always heard you speak of him as a good 
fellow, and Barye used to say the same." On the 5th of 
November, he announces his speedy return: 

" My dear Sensier, — 

"We intend to leave here on Tuesday evening at 5.20. If 
the train is not late, we ought to be in Paris by Wednesday morn- 
ing, at four or five, and hope to reach Barbizon in the course of 
the morning. Au revoir then very soon, my dear Sensier." 



And so, for the last time, Millet left his beloved Nor- 
mandy. He took away with him a store of valuable notes 
and sketches, which supplied him with material for the 
works of the next three years, and was not exhausted at 
the time of his death. He had renewed acquaintance with 
many old friends, and left a pleasant memory behind him. 
Madame Polidor, the wife of the landlord at GreVille, still 
points out the window where he sat to paint the church, 
and laughs when she remembers the straits to which she 
was reduced in her endeavours to find room for the large 
family of children in her small house. " But they were all 
very happy," she adds, " and we should like to have kept 
them always." 

The kindness which he and his wife had shown to their 
poorer neighbours was fondly remembered, and there was 
one old woman in particular, who never failed to pray 
for their return. 

When Millet left Gr6ville, it was his firm intention to 
come back there with his family another summer. But 
work and illness interfered with these plans, and he never 
saw the fields of his home again. 



;3Q 



J. F. MILLET 



XIX 



1871-1874 

ON the 7th of November, 187 1, Millet returned to 
Barbizon. The house and atelier had been hastily- 
dismantled twelve months before, when the German in- 
vaders were hourly expected, and he came back to find 
everything in confusion. Some of his pictures had been 
taken to Cherbourg, others were rolled up and stowed 
away in cupboards or garrets. By degrees, however, he 
succeeded in reducing this chaos to order and began to 
work at his Gr6ville subjects. Some of these are men- 
tioned in his letters to Sensier : 

"Barbizon, 1 December, 1871. 
"I have hunted all through my big oak chest, without being 
able to find Madame Sensier 's little portrait. Everything has 
been turned so completely upside down, that it will be impos- 
sible to find anything, without examining its contents one by 
one. I am going to spend my evenings in reducing this chaos 
to some kind of order. I shall be glad to have the frame for 
my Cliffs of Gruchy as soon as possible. I have not yet dared 
to unpack my pictures. I am going to attack the Old House of 
Nacqueville." 



" Barbizon, 1 2 December. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" I have at last found the little drawing of Madame Sensier. 
It had been placed between the leaves of a note-book, which 
made it difficult to find. If you see De'trimont, tell him that I 
am working at his Little Shepherd. Only the days are so short 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



33*- 



and dark, it is hardly possible to see, and accordingly I do 
very little work. I have just received a letter from Beugniet, in 
which he asks me to send something to a sale, which takes 
place next January, for the benefit of Anastase, who has become 
blind. Have you heard of it? One of the pictures which I am 
doing for Brame is in a tolerably forward state. It is neither 
the church of Greville, nor yet the Lieu-Bailly, but a subject 
which I find in a little valley near Cherbourg. I am beginning 
the Old House of Nacquevilk ; the effect will, I think, be pretty 
good. I cannot work at my Cliffs of Gruchy until I get the 
frame which you ordered from Durand-Ruel. I have no wish 
to send anything to the Exhibition at Nantes — no wish, I repeat 
whatever, and shall be sorry if any of my pictures are shown 
there. Did I tell you that the Director of the Museum of 
Lille wrote to inform me that one of my works, La Becquee, had 
been presented to the Gallery ? " 

" Barbizon, 8 January, 1872. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" We are much distressed to see that you only have fresh 
illness by way of consolation for your other troubles. If, as 
some Christians believe, God afflicts those whom He loves the 
most, and thereby prepares them for a higher place, you will 
have a very glorious seat in Paradise. ... I saw M. 
Durand-Ruel the other day. He asked me to send him as 
many pictures as possible, and as you told me, canvases of all 
sizes. An American gentleman and lady, M. and Madame 
Shaw, of Boston, came a little while ago to ask me for a 
picture which I have promised to paint for them. They chose 
the Priory of Vauville as the subject from among the drawings 
they saw here. Detrimont and his wife have been to fetch their 
Little Shepherd. He asks for another picture. An employe of 
Durand-Ruel's whose name I did not catch, but whom you 
know well, came here yesterday to unpack my pictures. They 
are none the worse." 



Times had changed since the days when Millet had to 
seek work from reluctant dealers and take thankfully 
whatever price they chose to give. Now orders poured 



33 2 



J, F. MILLET 



in upon him from all sides, and he had only to name 
his own prices. As a rule he was paid four or five 
thousand francs for his large pictures, some hundred 
francs for his drawings. The expenses entailed by the 
war and his move to Normandy had been considerable ; 
his own frequent attacks of illness, and the necessary 
outgoings of a large family, were a constant drain upon 
his resources. He was still in need of ready money, and 
depended upon the payments that were made by his 
employers in advance. But although splendid offers were 
made him by dealers who wished to retain his services, 
he steadily refused to sacrifice his freedom. He loved 
to linger over his work, to keep his pictures by him 
and go back to them again. The longer he lived, the 
less his work seemed to satisfy him and the more earn- 
estly he strove after greater simplicity and force of 
expression. M. Hartmann's Spring was still in his 
atelier; the companion pictures of La Re'colte du Sar- 
rasin and Les Meules were only sketched out, al- 
though they had been ordered some years before. The 
Church of Gre"ville and the Cliffs of Gruchy, which had 
been partly executed in Normandy, were still in his 
studio at the time of his death, three years afterwards. 
So, too, was his Cowherd Calling his Cows, and a new 
version of the Shepherdess Bringing Home her Flock. 
Among the other pictures on which he was now en- 
gaged, were his Woman Sewing by Lamplight, his 
Peasant- Woman Feeding Turkeys, and his Young Mother 
Nursing her Child, sometimes called La Maternite", a 
life-size picture for which his daughter Marguerite, 
now Madame Heymann, sat to him. Among the other 
studies which his visit to Normandy had inspired, were 
a pastel of the farm of Lieu-Bailly which was bought by 
Sensier, the Priory of Vauville, which Mr. Quincy Shaw 
had ordered, and a fine drawing of a peasant-girl walk- 




■j.T.AYiUttz 






■ 



w^^^m 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



333 



ing home, through the meadows, with a copper jar on 
her shoulder. Many more were begun, but never finished. 
His headaches troubled him sorely, and he was often in 
bed for several days at a time. It became impossible 
for him to satisfy all his customers, but he was really 
sorry when he had to refuse the requests of old friends 
and employers. 

On the 25th of April, he wrote to M. Alfred Bruyas, 
who had begged for another picture: 



I 



"Sir — 

"You will believe how much honoured and flattered I feel 
by your letter of the 8th. I regret exceedingly that I am un- 
able to do what you ask, at once, owing to the numerous 
orders which I have received since my return here. But you 
may be sure that I will not forget your request, and will apply 
myself to the task of satisfying you as soon as I can find time. 
You may also be sure that I shall be very happy to make 
your acquaintance in person. What you say of Barye's works 
is no surprise. Here I entirely agree with you. He is one of 
the artists who seems to me undoubtedly destined to accomplish 
great things. I am very glad to hear you like the little things 
which I have done for you. Receive, sir, the assurance of my 
profound consideration." 

On the 1 st of May, he wrote to thank Sensier for his 
report of a sale at which his little picture of Le Pare 
aux Moutons had sold for a high price : 

<4 Tillot has given me your letter with the prices of the 
Carlin sale, which give me great satisfaction. He has also 
brought me the book on Constable. I am still in bed and 
cannot get my pen to write. Good-bye till Saturday or Sunday. 
Oh, why cannot I get well?" 



All through the summer he was ill and suffering, 
the 6th of August he wrote : 



On 



334 



J. F. MILLET 



" My dear Sensier, — 

" I have not yet finished my Church of Greville. I can do very 
little work. I groan more than I paint, and have only sketched 
out my next picture. You know the subject : a cowherd blowing 
his horn at the end of the day to call his cows home. I have 
also worked at my Woman Sewing by Lamplight. Barye is here. 
I have not yet seen him. I mean to pay him a visit, for he cannot 
get out yet, although he is better." 

Three months later, and it is still the same story : 

"25 November, 1872. 
" My dear Sensier, — 

" It has been impossible for me to answer your very kind 
letter of the 17th before this. Louise read it to me at my bedside. 
I have been here for the last two days, and have to spend my 
whole time on my back. You will have much to say in writing of 

Michel. As for 's article, I asked Tillot if I was expected to 

give any signs of life. He said, ' No.' I do not know the customs 
of journalism, and trust entirely to you to do what is right. You 
know what I always feel on these subjects ; I do not wish to throw 
myself at people's heads, nor yet to assume indifference. You say 
some things in your letter that move me deeply, my dear Sensier : 
they stir up the melancholy that lies deep down in my heart, and 
bring back memories of the vanished years. I will say no more on 
the subject to-day, for once upon that track I do not know where it 
may lead me." 



On the last day of the year, faithful to his old habit, 
he wrote to Sensier, but he was suffering again with 
pain in his eyes, and could only send a few lines : 

" My eyes have been very bad. They are certainly better now, 
although my left eye is still inflamed. But I am oppressed with 
pains of all kinds. I work very little, which distresses me greatly. 
My Priory remains just where you saw it. I will have exact 
measurements taken for the cross on Rousseau's grave. Here 
goes the old year 1872, where all the other years are gone ! We 
embrace you and Marguerite, and wish you all that we desire for 
those whom we love best." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



335 



Early in 1873, a Belgian art-critic, M. Camille 
Lemonnier, who had spoken with warm sympathy of 
Millet, sent the painter a pamphlet on the Salon of 
1870. Millet replied in the following characteristic 
epistle : 



"Barbizon, 15 February, 1873. 
"Sir,— 

" I am very much honoured by your letter, and thank you for 
introducing me to your work as art-critic. The most enviable 
reward of an artist who tries to do his best is to find that he has 
roused the sympathy of intelligent men. This is equivalent to 
saying that I am very glad to have supplied you with an occasion 
for expressing certain truths about art. Only you find in my work 
qualities which are in my eyes so desirable, that I dare not believe 
in their presence. I do not doubt the correctness of your judgment, 
but I distrust myself. But putting myself aside, for fear of stumbling 
over my own toes, let me say at once how much I commend you 
for looking at things from the fundamental side. That is the only 
true and solid ground. Many people, far from taking this point 
of view, seem to think that art consists in a sort of show of 
professional cleverness. You understand that the artist must have 
a great and high aim. Without it, how can he seek to attain a goal of 
which he does not even dream ? How can a dog follow game without 
scent ? It is then by the nature of his aim, and the manner in 
which he reaches it, that an artist is to be judged. I assure you, 
sir, that if I could do what I wish, I should express the typical with 
all my might, for in that direction, to my mind, lies the highest 
truth. You are right in thinking that this, at least, is my intention. 
But I see that I am entering on a difficult road, and will not go any 
farther. If you ever come to Paris, and can spare time to visit 
Barbizon, we might talk of this. Only, if you should come, please 
let me know, since, although I am seldom out, some unlucky chance 
might prevent me from being at home that particular day. In fact, 
this has happened to me several times. You will forgive me for 
cutting off the address at the top of your letter, but I am not sure if 
I have read it correctly, and am afraid of copying it out wrong. 
Accept, sir, my repeated thanks and most cordial salutations. 

"J. F. Millet." 



33^ J. F. MILLET 

Three days afterwards he wrote to M. Hartmann in 
reply to an inquiry about his pictures : 

" You may reckon upon taking your picture of Spring back with 
you. I promise positively that you shall have it in May. By that 
time I shall have made some progress with The Wheat-ricks, and 
worked at the others. Allow me to keep Rousseau's pictures a little 
longer. I have not yet been able to do what I wish to them. My 
son is very glad to have your order for two pictures. He is going 
to choose his subjects. You may be sure that he will do his best. 
He has no wish to throw dust in people's eyes, and I am very glad 
of it. He does what he can, as well as he is able. I am working at 
a picture for Durand-Ruel, and hope to let him have it by the 
beginning, or at latest, by the end of next week. It is a hillock, 
with a single tree almost bare of leaves, and which I have tried to 
place rather far back in the picture. The figures are, a woman 
turning her back, and a few turkeys. I have always tried to in- 
dicate the village in the background on a lower plane." 

During that spring all the artist's strength and time 
were given to his work. He seldom wrote letters 
now, even to Sensier, but news of a sale of pictures 
belonging to M. Laurent-Richard, a collector who had 
lately bought his Woman Sewing by Lamplight, moved 
him to write the following lines: 

" Barbizon, 1 April, 1873. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

" I have made a drawing for the Giraud sale — a Shepherd. 

Last Sunday M gave me the catalogue for the Laurent-Richard 

sale. He told me that it was a very fine catalogue. I needed his 
assurance to be convinced of this. As I have only two pictures in 
this sale, I should be glad if those two were not hung at the end 
of the hall. The light has always seemed to me less good there 
than on the side walls. Your beautiful Rousseau, Les Sables a 
Jean de Paris, hung there at his sale, and lost much of its fine 
effect in consequence. I trust to you to do what is best ; and 
please see that my Femme a la Lampe is varnished. I am anxious, 
very anxious ! " 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



337 



This time Millet's fears proved groundless. The pictures 
were exhibited at the Hotel Drouot, on the 7th of April, 
and sold the next day. The small Lessiveuse was sold 
for 15,350 francs, and his Femme a. la Lampe for 38,500 
francs. This beautiful picture of a young mother sewing 
by the light of a lamp, with her babe asleep beside her, 
was hailed with acclamation alike by the critics and the 
public, and was sold for the highest price which had 
as yet been given for any of Millet's works. Still greater 
surprise was excited when, a few months afterwards, the 
Angelus was bought by Mr. J. W. Wilson for 50,000 
francs. This seemed an enormous sum in the eyes of 
Millet, who in 1859 na ci vainly asked 2,000 francs for the 
picture. When he heard of the sale, he remarked that 
the price was far too large, and that he was glad to 
think that he, at least, had nothing to do with it. Again 
in May, 1873, hi s Grande Baratteuse sold for 14,000 
francs, and his Flock of Geese for 25,000 francs. These 
prices were the more remarkable when we remember 
the disturbed state of political parties in France at the 
time, and the disquieting rumours that prevailed. 

On the 18th of May Millet wrote to Sensier : 

" I suppose the political situation is alarming, since the Faure 
sale is put off, after all the expenses of publishing the catalogue. 
Silvestre has sent me his first two articles. I will tell you what I 
think of them when I have read more, for I suppose the others 
will soon follow. My Spring for M. Hartmann is almost finished. 
I am going to let him know this, and ask him if he will allow it 
to be shown for a little while at Durand's rooms. If political affairs 
look too threatening, please tell me, and I will give up the idea for 
the present. Has not the fragrant odour of the cakes for the fete 
here reached you ? " 

During the past winter and spring Millet's health had 
kept fairly good, and he had been able to make con- 
siderable progress with the pictures which he had in 

z 



33$ 



J. F. MILLET 



hand. But in June he had a sudden attack of haemorrhage, 
and the asthma, from which he had suffered in former 
years, returned with fresh violence. The only letter 
which he wrote to Sensier that autumn was this short 
note: 

"Barbizon, 22 September, 1873. 
"My dear Sensier, — 

"Since I saw you I have been very suffering. This cough is 
killing me. I have only begun to feel a little better during the last 
few days. The fact is, I am breaking down completely." 



The dreaded hour was rapidly approaching, but he 
rallied for a time that autumn, and was able to go 
back to work. There were still days when he was 
bright and cheerful alone with his children, and talked 
with all his old animation to the friends who came to 
see him. 

A young American artist, Mr. Wyatt Eaton, has lately 
given some extremely interesting recollections of Millet 
in these last years of his life. He had seen the Femme a 
la Lampe at the Laurent-Richard sale, and had come 
to spend the holidays at Barbizon, full of enthusiasm 
for this master, who was, in his eyes, the greatest of 
modern painters. But, to his disappointment, he found 
that, unlike the other artists who lived at Barbizon, 
Millet never came round to the inn to drink a glass of 
beer or play a game of billiards. The only people who 
seemed to know him were the peasants, who spoke of 
him as an excellent neighbour, and said that if any one 
w as in trouble they had only to send for Madame Millet. 
On his evening walks the young American often passed 
Millet's house, and heard the merry talk and laughter 
of his children through the window opening on the 
street. Once he even caught a glimpse of the painter's 
profile as he sat at table. But one Sunday afternoon 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



339 



in September, conscious that his time at Barbizon was 
drawing to an end, he took courage, and, knocking at 
the door of Millet's house, boldly asked Francois Millet, 
whom he had met occasionally, to allow him to visit 
his father's atelier. The request was at once granted, 
and, about half an hour later, Millet himself entered 
the room, and greeted his visitor with a friendly shake 
of the hand. He showed him about a dozen pictures, 
upon which he was at work ; amongst others, The Cow- 
herd, A Woman Carrying Home her Faggots from the 
Forest, and the Priory that he was painting for Mr. 
Quincy Shaw. The evident admiration and delight of the 
young man pleased Millet, who called him nearer, and 
bade him notice the simplicity of his execution, and the 
infinite variety of effect that can be produced by a few 
touches. He was especially struck by a still-life study 
of three pears on a plate, which the painter had ren- 
dered with consummate truth. 



" In those pears," writes Mr. Wyatt Eaton, " I found all the tones 
of a landscape. In the twisted stems I seemed to see the weather- 
beaten tree. The modelling of the fruit was studied, and rendered 
with the same interest that he would have given to a hill, or a 
mountain, or human body. Millet seemed well pleased at my 
declaring this to be equal in interest to his other pictures." 1 

The ice once broken, Millet talked to the young student 
with rare friendliness, and spoke of his own loneliness 
and isolation since Rousseau's death; and answered his 
questions upon the relative value of different branches 
of study. Was anatomy of use ? Yes, distinctly so ; 
all study was valuable, if only the larger constructions, 
the planes and surfaces, were kept in mind. But the 
art-student, as a rule, had much both to learn and to 
forget, before he gained full command of his powers. 

1 Century, May, 1889. 



540 



J. F. MILLET 



When Mr. Wyatt Eaton alluded to the master's early- 
picture of CEdipus being Taken Down from the Tree, which 
he had lately seen in Paris, Millet laughed, and told 
him that he was very young when he painted that. He 
criticised some sketches which the young artist produced, 
found fault with his lack of simplicity, and unnecessary 
detail, and made much the same remarks on technical 
points as GeY6me and Munckacsy, who had also seen them. 
They talked much of art and nature, and in the end Mr. 
Wyatt Eaton asked him if it could be said of anything in 
nature that it was not beautiful. Millet replied with em- 
phasis: " The man who finds any phase or effect of nature 
that is not beautiful, may be quite sure the want is 
in his own heart." 

That winter Mr. Wyatt Eaton returned to Barbizon 
and saw a great deal of Francois Millet. He was re- 
psatedly invited to drink coffee with the painter's family 
of an evening, and saw Millet sitting at his hospitable 
board, surrounded by his children. His broad, muscular 
form reminded the young American of George Fuller, 
while his large and easy manner recalled Walt Whit- 
man. When he saw him in sabots and short cloak 
striding across the fields at the back of his house, 
absorbed in the contemplation of the evening sk}^, he 
seemed to him as grand a figure as his own Sower. 
Very interesting is the description of the painter which 
he gives of the artist's personal appearance at this time 
of his life : 



" His face always impressed me as long, but it was large in 
every way. All the features were large except the eyes, which at 
the same time were not small ; they must have been very blue when 
young. The nose was finely cut, with large, dilating nostrils, the 
mouth firm ; the forehead remarkable for its strength — not massive, 
but in the three-quarter view of the head, where usually the line 
commences to recede near the middle of the forehead, with him it 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



341 



continued straight to an unusual height. A daguerreotype, made 
when he was about thirty-five years of age, without a beard, showed 
him to have a large chin, and strong lower face, expressive of great 
will and energy. The hair and beard were originally a dark brown, 
the beard strong and heavy ; in his last years they were of an iron grey. 
His voice was clear and firm, rather low in pitch, and not of that deep 
bass or sonorous quality one might have expected from so massive a 
physique. Apart from sabots, which he always wore in the country, 
he in no way affected the peasant dress, as has been stated by the 
English, but wore a soft felt hat and easy-fitting clothes, such as 
you might see anywhere among the farmers or country people of 
America. It was only on going to Paris that he would put on 
leather shoes, a black coat, and silk hat, his apparel on these 
occasions causing much discomfort. To his family he never seemed 
himself when dressed for Paris. His general appearance, although 
not really that of a peasant, but perhaps more his manner, his heavy 
tread, and his apparent absorption in all that surrounded him, gave 
me the feeling that he Was part of nature, as he so well conceived 
the peasant as a part of the soil which he worked." 1 

But although Millet still worked hard, and was in 
good spirits, he was hourly conscious of failing strength. 
On the 18th of March, 1874, he wrote a last letter to 
Sensier, beginning with the following words : 

"How long is it since I have written to you, my dear Sensier ? 
I am so weak and languid that I put off what I ought to do from 
one day to another. Please believe that I have been thinking of 
you all the same. If my body is feebler, my heart has not grown 
colder. M. Hartmann wrote, some time ago, to say he would come 
here towards the end of the month. His picture of the Wheat-ricks 
is nearly finished, and I am pushing on the Buckwheat Threshers 
as fast as I can. Every one here embraces you." 

A few weeks afterwards he received a letter which 
gave him great pleasure. It was an order from M. de 
Chennevieres, the new Director of Fine Arts, informing 
him that the Government had decided to adorn the 

1 Century, January, 1889. 



■■■■ 



342 



J. F. MILLET 



Pantheon with wall-paintings, and offering him the sum 
of 50,000 francs for a series of eight subjects in the 
chapel of Sainte Genevieve. The task was one after 
Millet's own heart. He accepted it gladly, and set to 
work at once to sketch out the different compositions in 
charcoal. A letter which he addressed a fortnight later 
to his old friend, the schoolmaster of Gr^ville, shows 
the mingled feelings of joy and fear with which he 
entered on this important work. He was keenly 
alive to the honour which had been done him. No 
prouder task could have been assigned to him, and yet 
his heart sank at the prospect of the long and laborious 
toil to which his physical strength was altogether un- 
equal. And he felt that for this year, at all events, the 
hope of seeing his old home must be abandoned. 



"Barbizon, 26 May, 1874. 
'•'- My dear Sir,— 

" Since you have kindly become Jeanne Marie Fleury's secre- 
tary, I hope you will also act as my commissionnaire. Employment, 
you see, comes to you in both capacities at once ! Please tell 
that poor Jeanne Marie that we are very grateful for her kind 
thought of us, but that we are sorry she should take so much 
trouble to let us know this. When we return to Greville, we will 
certainly eat one of her geese. She may depend upon that ! But 
when will this feast take place ? ' Man proposes, but God disposes.' 
Last summer we meant to take this journey, and were preparing 
to start, but I fell ill, and my wife had a fall. This year other 
hindrances have come to stop us ; happily, they are pleasanter 
ones. A letter dated the 1 5th of May brought me an order from 
the Ministry for a great and important work. Here is the text 
of the letter : 

" ' Sir, I have the honour to inform you that M. le Ministre has, 
on my recommendation, desired you to execute the paintings for 
the decoration of the chapel of Sainte Ge'nevieve, in the church of 
that saint in Paris. A sum of 50,000 francs has been allotted to 
you for this work,' etc. 

" This letter is addressed to me by the Director of Fine Arts. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



343 



It will be a long and very fatiguing work. Oh ! my poor Greville, 
when shall I see you again ! But to come back to Jeanne Marie. 
If she can live in tolerable comfort, we shall be very thankful, and 
only ask her to think of us sometimes, as, indeed, she does already. 
My dear monsieur, . . . My son Francois and I both press 
you hard and cordially, and the whole family joins in wishing you 
and yours good health. Remember us all to Polidor and his family. 
I particularly wish to be remembered to Barthelemy, to Jean Paris 
and Lacouture. " J. F. Millet." 



He had not forgotten his friends at Greville, and sent 
a little allowance regularly to the good old woman who 
was fattening her geese for the day of his return. And 
it was with genuine pleasure that he sent the news of 
the great national work, for which he had been chosen, 
to his native place. A week or two after this he came 
to Paris with his wife and son to see M. de Chenne- 
vieres, and visit the chapel which he was to decorate 
with his paintings. Mr. Wyatt Eaton met them at the 
Duval Restaurant in the Rue Montesquieu, and looked 
out the Director's address for Millet's benefit. That day 
the master seemed in good spirits, and was evidently 
gratified at being selected for the work, although he 
complained laughingly of being obliged to put on his 
best clothes, and come to Paris. As they sat together 
in the Palais Royal, drinking their coffee out of doors, 
his thoughts went back to the old days when he first 
came to Paris, and had a hard struggle to earn his daily 
bread. He told his companions how print-sellers would 
come and offer him twenty francs for a pastel, and how 
he would paint a girl bathing or a child at play in a 
couple of hours. The Greville peasant-boy had not 
starved and toiled in vain. He was a great man now, 
and dealers and collectors from all parts of the world 
were ready to stake their thousands on the pictures 
which he had once sold for a crust of bread. 



344 



J. F. MILLET 



He went back to Barbizon and worked all the summer 
at the wall-paintings for Sainte Genevieve. The Miracle 
des Ardents and the Procession to the Shrine of Sainte 
Genevieve were two of the subjects assigned to him. 
He sketched these out in charcoal on small canvases, 
indicating the movement of the figures with a few 
broad strokes. His great wish was to make the story 
plain and intelligible to the unlearned without the help 
of books. But the chapel which he was to decorate 
was so dark that it would be necessary to bring out the 
figures in strong relief if they were to be seen at all. 
He applied himself earnestly to overcome this difficulty 
during this last summer of his life. But the order had 
come too late. 

On the 9th of July, Sensier and M. Hartmann went 
down to Barbizon. They found Millet still at work on 
the Priory of Vauville. M. Hartmann's own pictures, 
the Rdcolte de Sarrasin, and the autumn landscape 
of Les Mettles, were almost finished. In this last 
picture Millet had painted the cornfields under a new 
aspect. Summer is past, the harvest is ended, and earth 
rests from her labours. Reapers and gleaners alike are 
gone : only the newly-made ricks are left to tell of the 
precious grain safely stored up for the use of man. A 
few sheep browse the short stubble, and a flight of 
white pigeons wing their way across the sky in front 
of a black thunder-cloud that darkens the foreground. 
Beyond these threatening shadows the October sun, 
struggling out, touches the farmyard roofs with light, 
and gilds the edge of the plain with the last glow of 
the dying summer. Something of the peace that the 
near approach of death brings with it was in Millet's 
thoughts when he painted this last harvest-picture. " He 
suffered much," wrote Sensier, " and knew that the great 
day of rest was at hand." 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



345 



But there was one other picture on the easel which 
struck Sensier even more when he and M. Hartmann 
paid their visit to Barbizon. It was that view of the 
cliffs of Gruchy which Millet had gone to his old home 
to paint, and to which he alludes repeatedly in the 
letters of 187 1 and 1872. The subject was dear to his 
heart. He had lavished all his best powers of brain and 
hand upon the work, and was loath to part from it. The 
grass-grown cliffs close to his old home were in the fore- 
ground, and the posts of an old gateway framed in the 
wide stretch of green waves beyond. A dun cow feed- 
ing in the pastures at the foot of the steep cliffs was 
the only living creature in this vast expanse of sea 
and sky. But the colours of rock and wave, and the 
brilliant effect of summer sunlight on the sea, were 
painted with a force and depth of tone rarely seen in 
Millet's pictures. The whole life of Gr6ville, the pictur- 
esque charm of the country, and the hard struggle 01 
the peasants for daily bread, the romance of Millet's boy- 
hood, and the yearning of later years for the old home, 
are all gathered up in this last picture, which hung on 
the easel in his atelier at the time of his death. Les 
Falaises de Gruchy was eventually sold to M. Hartmann, 
and after his sale in 188 1 it passed into the hands of a 
Glasgow collector. Two years ago it was exhibited in 
Bond Street, and offered for sale at the price of £5,000. 

M. Hartmann returned to Paris well pleased with the 
sight of his pictures, but Sensier remained at Barbizon 
for another week. Millet was no longer able to take 
long walks in the forest, but he liked to stroll slowly 
through the village, or in the fields at the back of his 
house; and he had pulled out some bricks in his garden 
wall that he might watch the sunset from his favourite 
seat. 

Later on Sensier came back to Barbizon for the fete 



346 



J. F. MILLET 



of the Assumption, and spent the next day with Millet. 
All the painter's family — his children and grandchildren 
— were assembled on this occasion, and the whole party 
set out on an expedition into the forest. The young 
people drove in a large open carriage ; Millet, his wife, 
and Sensier followed in a low chaise. The day was soft 
and balmy, and Millet's spirits rose. He delighted in 
seeing his children around him, and rejoiced in the 
happy laughter and innocent mirth of his little grand- 
son Antoine. The most beautiful parts of the forest 
were all visited in turn, and Millet recalled the first 
summer which he had spent at Barbizon. He spoke of 
the ineffaceable impression which the sight of these 
wonders had made upon him, and of the influences 
which had led him to break for ever with academic art 
and enter on a closer and truer study of nature. When 
they parted, he spoke warmly to Sensier, and called him 
the truest and oldest of his friends. 

" Most friends," he said, " grow weary, and leave us 
in the hard places of life. Others die, or pass out of 
sight. You have remained; you have always supported 
me, encouraged me, and understood me." 

It was a generous tribute from the loyal and simple 
soul who never thought evil of others, but trusted his 
old friend to the end. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



347 



XX 



1874-1875 



THAT summer Mr. Wyatt Eaton spent the holidays 
again at Barbizon. He met with a warm welcome, 
and was constantly at Millet's house. The painter was 
absorbed in the composition of his scenes from the 
legend of Sainte Genevieve, and after meals would re- 
main alone at the table, fixing his eyes on the cloth, 
and passing his finger over the surface as if he were 
drawing, and then moving his hand as if to rub out 
what he had drawn. If a visitor came in, he would beg 
him to excuse his silence, and would go on with his 
invisible sketches. The evenings were generally spent 
in the garden, where Millet and his family had their 
supper in fine weather, and the painter often amused 
his children and grandchildren by making sketches of 
the fairy tales which he told them. A whole series on 
the story of Red Riding Hood was made about this 
time for his youngest daughter, Marianne, then a child 
of ten. Another set, describing the adventures of Le 
Petit Poucet, was originally designed for his eldest son, 
Francois. The ogre was represented in one drawing 
opening his mouth, showing how he would devour little 
boys and girls ; while in another he lay asleep on his 
bed, and Le Petit Poucet was deftly pulling off his 
boots. But the most touching of the series was the one 
in which the poor wood-cutter and his wife were seen 
pitting together in their bare room, with the empty 



348 



J. F. MILLET 



soup-pot lying upturned on the cold hearth. " We have 
no more bread for our little ones; let us go and lose 
them in the forest." In these sorrowful faces Francois 
recognised the portraits of his own parents, and knew 
that his father was describing the scene from his own 
experience. Even so Sensier had found him and his 
wife sitting all alone in the garret of the Rue Roche- 
chouart, where they had been for two days without 
bread or fuel. 

After dark, Millet generally played at dominoes, since 
he was no longer able to draw or read by candle-light. 
Mr. Wyatt Eaton frequently played with him, and so 
often lost the game that one evening Millet amused 
himself by drawing his recumbent effigy upon a tomb- 
stone, labelled with his name. They generally sat up 
till twelve or one o'clock, especially on days when some 
of the family had gone to Paris, and were expected by 
the last omnibus from Melun. As the evening wore on, 
Millet would grow lively, and talk in his old strain of 
the relations of art and nature. 

Mr. Wyatt Eaton was struck, like most of Millet's ac- 
quaintances, with his concise and well-chosen language, 
and the pains which he took to find the right word 
to express his thoughts. One evening the young artist 
consulted Millet about a view of the plain which he 
was painting, with a road running towards another 
village. He had brought in the wall of a house to show 
that this was the beginning of the village, but had been 
advised by an artist-friend to take this out, as injuring 
the beauty of the composition. Millet had no sooner 
heard this criticism than he broke into an indignant 
exclamation. This false idea of beauty was, he de- 
clared, the ruin of all true art. He could not listen to 
it calmly. " Beauty was the fit, the appropriate, the 
serviceable character well rendered, an idea well wrought 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



349 



out with largeness and simplicity." If a picture did 
not express the artist's idea, it was a failure ; and 
in support of his argument he took up a lamp, went 
across to his studio, and brought back some photographs 
of Giotto's frescoes at Padua, which had been given him 
by a friend who had lately returned from Italy. There, 
as he pointed out triumphantly, the expression, the charac- 
ter of the face and action was everything. " Was not 
the suitable always beautiful ? Was not the naturalness 
of an action fine, even if it were only that of one man 
washing the feet of another? " And, by way of contrast, 
he led the way up to his bedroom, and showed his guest 
an engraving of a Nativity by Titian hanging on the wall. 
There, he said, the figures lacked the roughness of the 
peasant-type, the room was quite unlike a stable, above 
all, the child was naked, instead of being warmly wrapt 
up in woollen clothes. " There, you see the beginning ot 
la belle peinture ! " Then he turned to another engraving — 
a death-bed scene, by his favourite Poussin. "How simple 
and austere the interior ; only that which is necessary, 
no more ; the grief of the family, how bitter ! " he said. 
'" Notice the calm movement of the doctor, as he lays his 
hand upon the man's heart. Look, too, at the dying man, 
at the care and trouble in his face, at his hands — perhaps 
your friend would not call them beautiful, but they speak 
of age, of toil and suffering. Ah! to me they are infi- 
nitely more beautiful than the delicate hands of Titian's 
peasants." 

His love for the early Florentines had never wavered 
since the day when he first climbed the steps of the 
Louvre and found himself suddenly in the presence of 
these old masters. Their expressive faces and movements, 
the very simplicity and directness of their art, appealed 
to him far more than any modern painters, and from 
the first he recognised in them his true kindred. One 



35o 



J. F. MILLET 



day Wyatt Eaton asked him if he did not think the art 
of Japan superior to the work of the fashionable Paris 
painter. " Most decidedly," he replied ; " but their work 
is far from having the beauty of Fra Angelico." Another 
old master whose work interested him intensely was II 
Greco ; and a picture by this vigorous and dramatic artist, 
who forms, as it were, the link between Tintoret and 
Velasquez, was an unfailing source of pleasure to him 
in his last illness. He had little sympathy with the latest 
developments of contemporary art, and was fond of say- 
ing that he should like to close the Salon for five years, 
to give artists more time for study and teach the critics 
to be less self-sufficient. " At the end of that time I 
would make each artist send in a study of the nude 
figure. You would see how many of our young boastfuls 
would decline the contest, and realize how much ignorance 
there is among them all! " 

Another evening, early in October, Millet came into 
his son's studio to look at a block which he had prepared 
for his brother Pierre, who had returned from America, 
and was spending a few weeks at Barbizon. The draw- 
ing represented a peasant resting both hands upon his 
spade ; every touch was full of expression, and as a 
picture it was complete. It seemed to gratify the master, 
and he told Mr. Wyatt Eaton that he would make a 
painting of the subject. Then he sat down and talked 
in melancholy tones of the beauty of the autumn, and 
of the many sad memories which the season awoke in 
his breast. After a little while his thoughts went back 
to the drawing, and he brightened up as he spoke of 
the qualities which appealed to him the most in art. 
"Repose," he said, "expressed more than action. The 
man leaning upon his spade was more significant of 
work than one in the act of digging; he had worked, 
and was fatigued ; he was resting, and would work again. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



351 



In the same way, he preferred to paint a middle-aged 
man rather than a young or an old one. The middle- 
aged man showed the effect of toil : his limbs were 
crooked and his body bent, yet years of labour were still 
before him. Again, in type, the labourer must show 
that he was born to labour, that labour was his fit 
occupation, that his father and grandfather had been 
tillers of the soil, and that his children and children's 
children will do the work their fathers have done before 
them. The artist," he always insisted, "should paint the 
typical, not the exceptional." 

The American artist never forgot that conversation in 
the dusk of the autumn evening. It was the last time 
that he ever heard Millet talk of those subjects. The 
next few evenings they played at dominoes, and then 
Wyatt Eaton went back to Paris, leaving Millet, to all 
appearance, quiet and contented, busy with his Sainte 
Genevieve pictures, and full of hope for the future. Some- 
times he complained of his want of energy, and said 
laughingly that he would rather sit still and go on work- 
ing with the dry paint on his palette than get up to fetch 
fresh colours. But the American artist little dreamt 
when he left Barbizon that he would never see Millet 
again. 

He worked on through the autumn at his unfinished 
pictures, and sketched out a new one of a mother teach- 
ing her child to sew in a cottage home, with a casement 
opening on a garden full of leaves and flowers. But his 
working days were almost over. The evening shadows 
were fast closing on the long day of toil, and the night 
was coming when no man can work. Early in December 
he had an attack of fever, and before the end of the 
month he took to his bed. Nights of delirium were 
followed by days of extreme prostration, and he himself 
became aware that his end was approaching. He told 



352 



J. F. MILLET 



his wife his last wishes, and asked to be buried by 
Rousseau's side in the cemetery at Chailly. He spoke 
much of his children, and grieved to think that he had 
not been able to make better provision for them in his 
lifetime. But he entreated them to hold together, and to 
stand by their mother when he was gone. And he spoke 
of his painting, and said sorrowfully that he was dying 
all too soon, for that he was only now beginning to see 
his way clearly, and to understand the true meaning of 
nature and of art. One day he asked to have some 
passages from his old favourite, Redgauntlet, read aloud 
to him again. Another time, only a little while before 
the end, as he lay with his face turned towards the gar- 
den and his atelier door, he told Francois that he was 
longing to paint a green hill and a bank of trees by the 
roadside in his native Normandy. He had still so much 
to say, if he could only live a little longer. 

He lingered on into the new year, tenderly nursed by 
his wife and children. That Christmas was a sad one 
for the home that used once to be so gay, and the 
" Jour des Rois," which had always been kept as a family 
festival, was spent in mournful silence. One morning, 
when the dying man had fallen asleep, he was rudely 
awakened by the firing of guns and the barking of 
dogs under his window. A poor stag, flying before the 
huntsmen, had jumped over a wall and taken refuge in 
a neighbouring garden, where it was torn to pieces by 
the dogs. Millet, who made no secret of the horror 
which he had for sport, heard of its fate with a shudder. 
" It is an omen," he said. " This poor beast, which comes 
to die beside me, warns me that I too am about to 
die." 

He was right. A few days afterwards, the painter of 
the Angelus breathed his last, at six o'clock on the morn- 
ing of the 20th of January, 1875. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



353 



The next day a neighbour went from house to house 
through the village, as was the custom in Norman vil- 
lages, and announced his death and the time of his 
burial. Millet had begged to be buried like a Gr6ville 
peasant, as his father and mother before him, and his 
last wishes were faithfully obeyed. On Saturday, the 
23rd of January, his family and friends, followed by a 
large company of artists, bore him to his grave in the 
cemetery of Chailly. 

It was a cold, gloomy day, and the rain fell heavily 
as the mourners paid him the last sad offices and left 
him to sleep by Rousseau's side. No better resting-place 
could have been found for him than this quiet spot, near 
the old church which he had so often painted, on the 
edge of that plain where the sound of the Angelus still 
seems to float in every wind that blows. 

A burst of lamentation followed upon the death of 
Millet. France, it was generally felt, had lost her most 
illustrious painter, and there was no one left to fill his 
place. At the same time, there was an uneasy feeling 
in many hearts that the great master had not been 
fully appreciated during his lifetime. Among the critics 
especially there was an evident anxiety to repair the 
injustice which had been done him in the past. Their 
articles upon his life and work showed a deep sense of 
his genius, together with a generous recognition of his 
simple and noble character. On every side, tokens of 
sympathy flowed in upon the brave and faithful woman 
who had proved so true a helpmeet through thirty 
years of married life, and who was now left widowed 
and alone. The painter Corot, his old friend, in the 
kindness of his heart, sent her a gift of 15,000 francs, 
telling the dealer who owed him the sum to make her 
believe that her husband had sold him pictures to that 
amount. 

A A 



354 



J. F. MILLFT 



M. Gavet opened an exhibition of Millet's drawings at 
the HCtel Drouot for her benefit. The State made tardy 
amends for its neglect of Millet in the past by allowing 
his widow a small pension of £48 a year. Happily, in 
the end, Madame Millet did not have to depend upon 
either public or private charity for her support. 

In the following May the unfinished pictures, draw- 
ings and pastels that were in the painter's atelier at the 
time of his death were sold at the Hotel Drouot, and 
produced the considerable sum of 321,034 francs. This 
fortunate and unexpected result enabled Madame Millet 
to discharge all her husband's obligations and left her 
in possession of a comfortable income. During the next 
thirteen years she lived on with her children in the old 
home at Barbizon, which became the goal of many pil- 
grimages. A constant stream of visitors from all parts 
of the civilized world found their way to Millet's house, 
and begged leave to see the atelier where he had painted 
his famous pictures. These enthusiastic travellers, it 
must be owned, were apt to be a little trying. Some- 
times resolute intruders would force their way into the 
house without introduction of any sort. One American 
lady appeared at the door with a large troop of friends, 
and, having brought the terrified maid to the door by 
her ceaseless knocks and calls, demanded admittance on 
the strength of being a citizen of the States, adding that 
one of her companions had narrowly missed being elected 
President ! But Madame Millet was invariably kind and 
courteous to all reasonable persons, and as long as she 
lived at Barbizon, no lover of Millet's art was ever 
turned away. They were free to see the atelier where 
he had worked, and were offered the key of the cemetery 
of Chailly if they wished to visit his grave. And any 
one who had known her husband or had any other claim 
on her attention, met with a ready and cordial welcome. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



355 



Those who saw her did not soon forget the simple and 
kindly charm of her presence. She would talk freely 
of old times, of her husband's long struggle for recogni- 
tion, and of the glad day when success came at length 
to reward his toil, and he began to be "un peu ctUbre." 
But sometimes, as she spoke of those bygone years, and 
recalled the love and happiness of her now desolate 
home, those memories of the cherished past would rush 
upon her with overwhelming force, and she would burst 
into a flood of tears. 

Madame Millet lived to witness her husband's rapidly 
growing fame, and to see enormous prices paid for the 
pictures which he had vainly tried to sell for bread. 
She heard with strangely mingled emotions of the ex- 
traordinary sensation excited by the sale of the Angelus 
in 1889, and before her death she saw the world-re- 
nowned picture come back to France once more, and 
after all its wanderings find a home in Millet's native 
land. One by one her daughters married, and her sons 
left her to seek their fortunes in Paris. But her elder 
son Francois, who had been for so many years his 
father's companion and pupil, and was now himself an 
artist of some repute, remained under her roof until the 
sad day when they were both forced to leave the old 
home. 

After Millet's death, Sensier, who, it will be remembered, 
was the owner of his house, had raised the rent to 500 
francs, and granted his widow an extension of the lease. 
But two years later, Sensier himself died, and the houses 
and land which he owned at Barbizon became the property 
of his only child — the Marguerite mentioned in Millet's 
letters — now Madame Duhamel. In November, 1888, 
Madame Millet's lease came to an end, and she was 
unable to obtain its renewal from the owners. Some of 
Millet's American admirers subscribed to buy the pro- 



356 



J. F. MILLET 



perty for her use, but they failed to come to terms 
with Madame Duhamel, and the plan was ultimately 
abandoned. So, sorely against their will, the painter's 
widow and children were forced to leave their beloved 
home, and move into another house across the street. 

It was a sad day for the whole family, and both 
Francois Millet and his mother felt the parting keenly. 
Every stone in the old walls, every corner of the house 
and garden, was full of precious memories. The atelier 
had been kept unchanged since Millet died. His easel 
was still standing there, and near the door was the old 
armchair where Rousseau and Diaz, Corot and Barye, 
Decamps and Daumier and Dupr6 and many other illus- 
trious men of his generation had all sat in turn. The 
names and heights of Millet himself and of most of his 
friends were written behind the looking-glass, and the 
wall was covered with sketches and mottos. Francois 
Millet effaced most of these interesting records before he 
left, unwilling that these intimate recollections of his 
father's private life should be exposed to public gaze. 
The older portion of the house itself was pulled down, 
and only the dining-room which Millet had added and the 
atelier were left standing. These underwent an entire 
transformation. The outhouses and walls of the garden 
were destroyed, and the flowers and fruit-trees, which 
Millet had planted with his own hands, perished. 

All these changes were grievous to see, but Madame 
Millet met them in the same brave and patient spirit which 
had helped her through the trials of former years, and 
lived on, supported by the love of her sons and daughters, 
and happy in the sacred recollections of the past. The 
death of her youngest daughter, Marianne, the pet and 
plaything of Millet's later years, in 1890, was another 
blow, and she never recovered from the shock. During 
the last four years she suffered severely from heart 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



357 



disease. For a time she battled with this painful ill- 
ness, but at length she was compelled to leave Barbizon 
and seek a warmer climate in the neighbourhood of Paris. 
On the 31st of January, 1894, she died at Suresnes, in 
the house of her son-in-law, M. Edgard Landesque, and 
on the 3rd of February she was buried at Chailly, by 
the side of the husband whose work she had helped so 
nobly during his lifetime, and whose glory is her best 
reward. 

There they sleep, under the shadow of a tall pine, 
in a quiet corner of the cemetery outside the village, 
a little apart from the central walk where the notables 
of Chailly and Barbizon lie. A few rose-bushes, 
which have a hard struggle for life in the sandy 
soil, are planted round the grave, and the boughs of the 
young birch and beech-trees, which Millet himself planted 
on Rousseau's tomb close by, droop over the cross at 
the head of their resting-place. The tombstone bears the 
following inscription : 

Jean Francois Millet, Peintre, 

Ne a Greville (Manche) le 4 Octobre, 18 14 : 

Mort a Barbizon le 20 Janvier, 1875. 

Ici reposent, avec Jean FRANgois Millet, 

Pierre Landesque, 

Ne le 8 Juillet, 1883: 

Mort le 17 Aout, 1884. Son petit fils. 

Marianne Julie Millet, 

Nde a Barbizon le 28 Novembre, 1863 : 

Morte le 19 Juillet, 1890. Sa fille. 

Catherine Marie Josephe Lemaire, 

Nee a Lorient (Morbihan) le 28 Avril, 1827 : 

Morte a Suresnes le 31 Janvier, 1894. Son epouse. 

Barbizon itself is now an altered place. The great 
masters to whom it owed its renown are dead, and the 
present generation of artists has almost ceased to fre- 



358 



J. F. MILLET : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



quent the once famous village. The life of the past is 
gone as completely as if it had never been. But the 
spell of a mighty presence still lingers in the air. The 
quiet village street, the path leading to the forest, the 
great plain where the peasants still go out to work at 
break of day and the shepherds bring home their flocks 
in the gloaming are all eloquent of Millet. 

The old houses with their paved courtyards and an- 
cient wells, their dove-cotes and poultry feeding in the 
shade of the big walnut-trees, are the same we see in 
his drawings; the wheat-ricks and haystacks at the end 
of the village street, the ruined wall on the edge of the 
forest where the deer listen at dusk, remain exactly as 
they were when he painted them in his Moissonneurs or 
Cerf aux Ecoutes. The woodcutters at work by the road- 
side, the rabbits starting out of their sandy burrows 
among the rocky boulders, the peasant-women picking 
up stones or hoeing potatoes on the plain, the shepherd 
with his staff and felt hat, followed by the long file 
of straggling sheep, might have stepped straight out of 
his pictures. Each feature of the familiar landscape 
recalls some well-known painting. Every figure we 
see reminds us that here Millet lived and died. And 
when the sun has sunk below the blue hills in the 
horizon, and the mysterious gloom of twilight settles on 
the plain, then the great master seems to live again, 
and we feel his presence near us in this his favourite 
hour. 

" He is made one with Nature. There is heard 
His voice in all her music ; . . . 
He is a presence to be felt and known 
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone, 
Spreading itself where'er that Power may move 
Which has withdrawn his being to its own; 
Which wields the world with never-wearied love, 
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above." 



PART IV 



1875— 1895 



" Les gens ci'esprit pourrent sourire, les academies pourrent se tromper, 
les indifferents pourrent passer sans regarder et sans comprendre ; ces 
moqueries, ces meprises, ces dedains ne changerent rien au resultat de- 
finitif, et, dans un temps qui viendra bientot, qui, peut-etre, est deja venu, 
M. Millet sera salue comme un maitre." 

— Paul Mantz {Gazette des Beaux Arts, Juin 15, 1859). 

" La prophetie s'est realisee tout entiere. Les academies se sont trom- 
pees, les gens d'esprit ont souri, mais l'ceuvre est Ik, toujours eloquente." 

— A. Michel, 1887. 



J. F. MILLET : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



161 



IN these days, when every one thinks and paints as he 
pleases, it is difficult to realize the fierceness of the 
outcry which forty years ago met any departure from 
the beaten track. Yet here in England the same storm 
was aroused when the pre-Raphaelites raised their pro- 
test against false and conventional art. Their practice 
was different from that of Millet, but they took their 
stand on the same ground. Like Mr. Holman Hunt and 
his comrades, the Norman peasant-painter started with 
the stubborn conviction that "it is at first better, and 
finally more pleasing, for human minds to contemplate 
things as they are than as they are not." 

Dante Rossetti recognised this spiritual kinship with 
generous warmth when he saw Millet's works at Paris 
in 1863, and came home full of interest and sympathy 
in the peasant-pictures of this unknown master. " Paint 
things as you see them — as they actually happen," cried 
this heaven-born leader of the movement which brought 
life to the dead bones of English art, " not as they are 
set down in academic rules," "Go to nature for your 
impressions," said Millet ; " it is there, close at hand, that 
beauty lies. All you see there is proper to be expressed, 
if only your aim is high enough." 

But such rank heresy as this was not to be endured 
in those days, least of all in France, where the traditions 
of the Schools reigned supreme. And because the young 
peasant-artist who came to Paris with his ictees toutes 
faites stir Vart was in advance of his age, because he 



,62 



J. F. MILLET 



dared to think for himself and was resolved at all 
hazards to paint in his own way, he found himself 
treated as a barbarian and a demagogue. The critics 
were intolerant of new ideas, and the public resented 
what it could not understand. We have followed him 
through the long years of his brave struggle with fate, 
and have seen how he drained the cup of suffering to 
the dregs. But in the end his work, like that of all great 
and original minds, has received full recognition. Out of 
the weary days of waiting and loneliness, out of the 
failure and despair the great results came. When he 
died, the tide was already turning, but no one could have 
dreamt what triumphs were in store for him. The exhi- 
bition opened by his generous friend M. Gavet, three 
months after his death, was visited by four thousand 
persons, and a few weeks later these ninety-five draw- 
ings were sold for upwards of 430,000 francs. And that 
same spring the sale of the pictures and drawings in his 
studio, as we have seen, produced a sum far beyond the 
highest expectations of his friends. Already his country- 
men were beginning to realize the greatness of the mas- 
ter whom they had lost. 

During the next ten years the prices of Millet's pic- 
tures rose by leaps and bounds. Le Semeur changed 
hands for £5,000, Le Greffeur was sold at M. Hartmann's 
death in 1881 for £5,300, and the Angelus reached the 
figure of £8,000. Small pastels and drawings which he 
had sold for a few pounds were bought for as many 
hundreds, and collectors readily paid £20 or £30 for 
proofs of etchings which were to be had for half a franc 
in his lifetime. But the first public recognition which 
Millet received from his countrymen was in 1887, when 
an exhibition of his works was held in Paris. Other 
masters, Corot, Manet, Bastien-Lepage had been paid the 
same honour in the year after their death. Millet had 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



3 6 , 



to wait twelve years before his day came. But if the 
act of reparation was tardy, it was complete. The Exhi- 
bition was held in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and here 
the painter, who had been reviled as a revolutionary, 
and an enemy to the sacred traditions of art, was hon- 
oured with a great display of banners and mottos, of 
laurel wreaths and immortelles, and all the festal show 
with which France delights to do homage to her mighty 
dead. All Paris crowded to see the once-despised and 
rejected works. Unfortunately, many of the most famous 
pictures were missing. Le Semeur, La Grande Tondeuse, 
La Femme aux Seaux had already crossed the Atlantic, 
and found a home in the country where Millet's worth 
had been long ago appreciated. But the Angelus and Les 
Glaneuses, La Jeune Bergire, VHomme a la Houe and 
V Homme a la Veste, and many other equally representa- 
tive works were there, while, besides sixty-seven oil- 
paintings, as many as one hundred pastels and drawings 
hung on the walls. 

The exhibition proved a great popular success, and 
every Frenchman was proud to think of Millet as his 
countryman. The critics and journalists — those kernels 
aboyeurs who had worried poor Millet's soul with their 
noisy recriminations — were loud in their acclamations. 
The very papers which had formerly denounced him as 
a painter of ere" tins and savages, a Socialist and dema- 
gogue of the most dangerous type, helped to swell the 
chorus of praise. One and all they showed the same 
desire to bury the past in oblivion. "Let us forget Mil- 
let's sufferings," they cried, "and think only of his glory." 
And the motto, "Victory should be merciful," was in- 
scribed on the catalogue which M. Paul Mantz compiled. 

"So the cripple Justice," wrote M. Andre Michel, "hobbling 
along on her crutches, arrives at last, and with a mournful smile lays 
her crown on the brows of the dead." 



3 6 4 



J. F. MILLET 



A statue of Millet was raised out of the proceeds of 
the exhibition on the Market Place at Cherbourg, and the 
great peasant may be seen looking over the seas and 
the coast which he loved so well. Two years before a 
bronze plaque bearing portraits of Millet and Rousseau, 
modelled by the sculptor Chapu, had been placed on a 
rock at the entrance of the forest of Fontainebleau, so 
that Barbizon should not be left without a memorial of 
her greatest painter. 

But the record of Millet's triumphs does not end here. 
In 1889 came the great International Exhibition, and 
the upper galleries of the Champ de Mars were filled 
with a goodly show of pictures and drawings, illustrating 
the progress of French art during the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Once more we were brought face to face with the 
painting of the Revolution and of the First Empire, with 
the theatrical attempts of David to revive the glorious 
days of the ancient Romans, and the huge battle-pieces 
which were the natural expression of Napoleon's times. 
Old quarrels were revived, and the war which waged so 
fiercely between Classics and Romantics came back to 
our minds when we saw the works of the bold inno- 
vator Delacroix side by side with those of his cold and 
academic rivals. 

But the most striking feature in the show was the 
splendid display made by the men of 1830— that gallant 
little band who first raised the banner of revolt and dared 
to paint what they saw and felt rather than what others 
had seen and felt before them. Chief among that illus- 
trious company was Jean Francois Millet, the master who 
shared this revived sympathy with nature, and found a 
new and higher inspiration in the teachings of humanity. 
This time a special effort had been made to bring to- 
gether a representative collection of his works. La Grande 
Tondeuse had been brought back across the Atlantic for 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



365 



the occasion, and Les Glaneuses and V Homme a la Houe 
hung side by side with the tragic Tueurs de Cochons and 
the idyllic Pare aux Moutons, with the charming young 
Fileuse and the pathetic autumn landscape of Les Meules. 
Even more characteristic of his genius was the noble 
collection of pastels and drawings which hung on the 
screen, and included his beautiful dream of the Angelus. 
Then we realized, not only the high place which he holds 
among the painters of the century, but the important part 
which he has played in the evolution of modern art. 

There was no longer any doubt as to Millet's popularity 
that day. The gallery where his pictures hung was 
crowded with bourgeois and peasants from the provinces. 
Many a working-man in blouse and sabots who had 
brought his family into Paris by the train de plaisir to 
see the wonders of the great Exhibition, might be seen 
showing his little children Les Glaneuses and the Pare 
aux Moutons, and telling them the name of the great 
Norman master who had painted them. 

By a strange chance the Angelus, the chief of Millet's 
works that was absent from the Champ de Mars, was 
offered for sale that summer in Paris, and became the 
object of the most dramatic and exciting contest ever 
known in the auction-room. This picture, as our readers 
will remember, had been painted in 1859 J an d although 
Millet himself considered it to be one of his best works, 
Arthur Stevens had great difficulty in finding a purchaser 
who would give the modest sum which the painter asked. 
It was ultimately bought, as I have said, by M. de 
Papeleu, but soon passed into the collection of M. Van 
Praet, the Belgian minister in Paris. This distinguished 
connoisseur, who owned many of the finest works painted 
by Barbizon masters, afterwards exchanged the Angelus 
for M. Tesse's Bergire, another of Millet's masterpieces. 
M. Tesse, in his turn, sold it to M. Gavet, who parted 



366 








J. 


F. MILLET 








with 


it 


to : 


Durand-Ruel 


for what 


seemed to 


Millet 


the 


extravagant 


sum of 


3o : 


,000 francs. 


During 


the war of 


1870, 


it 


was 


brought 


to 


England by 


M. Durand-Ruel, 


and 



hung for twelve months in a dealer's shop in Bond Street. 
But although the picture was freely offered for sale, there 
was no one in London who would give the price of 
£1,000, which Durand-Ruel asked. One well-known col- 
lector went as far as £800, but his offer was refused, 
and the Angelus went back to Paris, where it was soon 
afterwards bought by Mr. J. W. Wilson, another Belgian 
collector, for £2,000. At his sale in 1881, it was bought 
for £6,400 by the dealer Petit, who had been commis- 
sioned to buy it by two different collectors, M. Secr6tan 
and Mr. Vanderbilt. They agreed to draw lots for the 
picture. M. Secr6tan won, and sold it to Petit for £8,000. 
A few years afterwards he bought it back again for 
£12,000, by which time the Angelus had become so 
famous that another American collector, Mr. Rockafeller, 
is said to have offered him £20,000 for the picture. This 
offer, however, was refused, and the Angelus, which was 
now described as the most beautiful picture of modern 
times, remained the property of M. Secr6tan until it was 
put up to auction with the rest of his collection on the 1st 
of July, 1889. The great interest and curiosity already 
aroused by the sale was increased when it became known 
that the French Government, moved by the celebrity 
which the Angelus had attained, and the general sense 
of regret that was expressed in 1887 at the loss of so 
many of Millet's masterpieces, had desired M. Antonin 
Proust, the Director of Fine Arts, to secure the picture, 
if possible. 

From early morning the pavement of the Rue de La 
Rochefoucauld was thronged, and crowds stood en queue 
at the doors of the gallery, as at some popular theatre, 
waiting patiently for admission. The auction-room was 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



167 



packed with eager faces, and the result of the sale was 
awaited with the most intense interest. When Millet's 
Angelus was brought forward, the whole assembly rose 
to their feet and saluted the masterpiece of the dead 
painter. The bidding rose rapidly to 300,000 francs, when 
M. Proust appeared on the scene, acting on behalf of 
the Government, and a keen international struggle began 
between him and two American dealers, who were bid- 
ding for the Washington Museum and a private collector. 
When the figure of 451,000 francs was reached, the two 
Americans retired from the fray; but before the picture 
could be knocked down to France two new American 
dealers, who had just arrived by special train from Havre, 
entered the lists, and the battle began with renewed 
vigour. As each fresh hundred thousand francs was 
reached, there were loud shouts of applause, and when 
at 504,000 francs, the Angelus was knocked down to M. 
Proust, cries of Vive la France! rent the air. But one of 
the American agents who was bidding on the part of an 
Art Association, came forward and explained that he had 
offered 1,000 francs more, upon which, after some dis- 
cussion, the bidding began again. At length M. Proust 
reached the figure of 553,000 francs. There was a 
moment's breathless pause. For the space of a few 
seconds Paris heard the beating of its own heart, and 
then the hammer fell, and the Angelus was declared to 
be the property of France for all time. An outburst of 
frantic excitement followed. Men tossed their hats to the 
ceiling ; women sobbed and fell into each other's arms, 
and the curtain fell on a scene of wild enthusiasm, such 
as had never been known within auction-room walls, in 
the memory of man. So the long injustice of Millet's life 
was repaired, and he at length received his due. 

But unfortunately, when the first moment of enthusiasm 
was over, the French Government declined to ratify the 



3 68 



J. F. MILLET 



purchase which M. Proust had made at so enormous a 
price, and the Angelus was resigned to the American 
agent, who had been the next highest bidder. After 
being exhibited for some days in Paris, the now world- 
renowned picture was taken to America. Here, however, 
the Custom House officials fixed the duty payable on this 
work of art at £7,000, but consented to waive their claim 
on condition that the picture did not remain more than six 
months in the country. Accordingly the Angelus was 
exhibited during the autumn and winter in the States, 
and was then brought back to France, where it was 
finally purchased by M. Chauchard for the immense sum 
of £32,000. 

That a small picture, so simple in subject and subdued 
in colour, should kindle such extraordinary enthusiasm, 
is a remarkable tribute to the completeness with which 
the painter had realized his impression and to the truth 
and power of the idea which he had expressed on canvas. 
Even the statesman, Gambetta, a professed agnostic and 
avowed enemy of the Church, paid homage to the sin- 
cerity of the painter's intention, and acknowledged the 
religious tradition which had inspired his picture as a 
great and living force. 

" The Angelus? he wrote in an interesting letter to a friend, 
"that masterpiece in which two peasants, bathed in the pale rays 
of the setting sun, bow their heads, full of mystical emotion at 
the clear sound of the bell ringing for evening prayer, compels us 
to acknowledge the still powerful influence of religious tradition 
on the rural population. You feel that the artist is- not merely a 
painter, but that, living ardently amid the passions and problems 
of the age, he has his share and plays his part in them. The 
citizen is one with the artist, and in this grand and noble picture 
he gives us a great lesson of social and political morality." 

The words confirm the truth of Millet's own conviction 
that the Angelus was one of the most religious paintings 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



3 6 9 



of modern days. Scoffers may interpret it after their own 
fashion, and say that it might just as well represent a 
father and mother burying their baby, or deploring the 
rottenness of their potatoes ; but the fact remains the 
same. 

The sensational incidents of the Secretan sale and the 
singular adventures of the Angelas have eclipsed the 
fame of Millet's other pictures. But their value has risen 
in proportion, and their fate is not without interest for his 
admirers. The Glaneuses, which in technical excellence 
probably surpasses the Angelas, while in poetry and 
pathetic meaning it can scarcely be called inferior, was 
bought by Madame Pommery, as I have said before, at 
the close of the International Exhibition, for the sum of 
£12,000, and presented to the Louvre. Before this the 
Government had already acquired the Church of Greville 
and sixteen drawings at the painter's sale, and had 
also purchased the beautiful picture, Le Printemps, from 
M. Hartmann's collection. 

M. Chauchard, whose collection of the Barbizon School 
is now the finest in existence, and includes all the gems 
of the Van Praet Gallery, has as many as seven Millets 
in his possession : the Angelas, the Bergere, which he 
bought after M. Van Praet' s death, three years ago, for 
£28,000 ; Le Vanneur of 1848 ; the Auvergne Fileuse 
spinning out of doors, her goats around her; the 
winter version of the Pare anx Moutons, with the moon 
struggling out of the black clouds ; another little Bergere 
turning her face away to watch the sunset ; and a 
fine pastel of a girl pouring water into a pitcher at a 
cottage door. 

A pastel of the Bergere was sold at the Secretan sale 
for upwards of £1,000, and a drawing of a peasant 
watering two cows, which had been purchased for £172 
at the Gavet sale, reached about the same figure. These 

B B 



37o 



J. F. MILLET 



high prices have naturally placed Millet's works beyond 
the reach of public galleries of late years, and here in 
England the only Millets of which we can boast are to 
be found in private collections. M. Ionides counts among 
his treasures the finely -coloured picture of the Wood- 
Sawyers, and the blue -cloaked shepherdess under the 
trees of Barbizon. Mr. Alexander Young owns another 
Bergere, the charming little picture called a Reverie, 
representing a girl sitting on the ground at the foot of 
a spreading beech tree, while the flickering sunlight 
plays upon her face and form. Mr. J. S. Forbes is the 
fortunate possessor of as many as forty works of Millet, 
including that rare and splendid specimen of his early 
style, V Amour Vainqueur, the pastel of the Angelus and 
many of his finest drawings. A few others are in Scot- 
land and Belgium, while a far larger number, amounting, 
it is said, to more than half of his whole works, are 
in the United States. Many of these crossed the Atlantic 
in the early days, as far back as 1853, when William 
Hunt first introduced the work of the Barbizon painter 
to his fellow-countrymen, and American collectors, wiser 
than other men of their generation, bought such master- 
pieces as Le Semeur and Le Greffeur for comparatively 
trifling sums. Mr. Brooks, of Boston, owns La Grande 
Tondeuse, Mr. Martin Brimmer has Les Moissonneurs of 
1853, and the fine Re'colte de Sarrasin, which Millet 
painted for M. Hartmann in the last year of his life. Mr. 
Quincy Shaw has no less than twenty oil paintings, and 
forty or fifty pastels, including Le Nouveau-Ne", and the 
original Semeur exhibited in 1851. Mr. Vanderbilt, of 
New York, owns the later Semeur and La Femme aux 
Seaux. The earliest and by far the finest version of Le 
Pare aux Moutons, that poetic rendering of the Barbizon 
shepherd penning his flock in the fold on a summer 
night, which formerly belonged to M. Gavet, is now in 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



371 



the Gibson Gallery at Philadelphia, while Mr. Rockafeller 
and Mr. Dana, of New York, Mr. Walters, of Baltimore, 
Mr. Leiter, of Washington, Mr. Astor and Mr. Morgan 
all have important examples in their collections. Nine 
years ago M. Durand-Greville gave an interesting account 
of the Millets in America, but since then many of the 
pictures have changed hands, and it is almost impossible 
to identify their present owners. 



372 



J. F. MILLET 



II 



IT is too early, as yet, to determine the place that 
Millet will ultimately hold in the eyes of posterity, 
but the very slowness of the steps by which his fame 
has been won is the best pledge of its endurance. And 
however the tide of popular favour may ebb and flow in 
years to come, one thing is certain : by painting the 
peasants of the field as he saw them, and steadfastly 
refusing to beautify and idealize them, Millet opened a 
new path and proclaimed a principle of vital importance 
in the history of modern art. Others were to carry out 
this principle on a wider scale and apply it to new sub- 
jects, but he was the first who boldly laid down this law 
and made all future progress possible. Beauty is truth 
— le beau c'est le vrai. This was the one article of faith 
from which he never swerved, to which he testified both 
in his writings and in his art, for which he lived and 
died. Of this glory he can never be deprived. But 
when we come to consider his actual achievement, we 
must acknowledge its limitations. His conception is 
of the highest order; composition and style are alike 
admirable, but the execution is distinctly unequal. And 
this applies especially to his oil-paintings. Here his 
technique, it must be owned, is of a decidedly old- 
fashioned kind. As a colourist, Millet never rose to the 
first rank. Bright hues and vivid colours were not much 
to his taste. The gay side, as he said, never showed 
itself to him. He never seeks to dazzle the eye, or ap- 
peal to the imagination by this means. But the very 



HIS LIFE AND. LETTERS 



373 



soberness of his tints, the solemn tones of his landscapes 
agree with the seriousness of his intention and with the 
character of his subjects. And here and there he has 
shown us what he might have done in this line, had he 
been so inclined. The brilliant tones of the flesh-paint- 
ing in his Amour Vainqueur are Venetian in their splen- 
dour, and the golden glow and rich harmonies of colour in 
the Angelus and the Bergere will not easily be surpassed. 
But he rarely rises to these heights. There is, as a rule, 
a certain heaviness about his colours, a thickness and 
woolliness in his paintings which must be counted as a 
defect. His tones are too often dark and muddy; his 
brush-work lacks the lightness of touch, the subtle deli- 
cacy which distinguishes many a far inferior artist. The 
atmosphere is too solid, the texture too massive, and the 
general effect laboured and unpleasant to the eye. And 
for this reason his pastels and drawings are distinctly 
superior to his oil-paintings. Here we find none of 
these drawbacks. The thoughts which filled the great 
peasant's sleeping and waking hours are expressed with 
a clearness and directness, an ease and charm which 
nothing can disturb. All his noblest qualities are pre- 
sent here. His wonderful powers of draughtsmanship, his 
thorough mastery of form, his tender and profound feel- 
ing — we find them all. The passionate sympathy with 
toiling and suffering humanity, the loving observation 
of earth and sky in all their varying aspects, the power 
and pathos of his art are, as it were, concentrated in 
these slight sketches, that were the fruit of the long 
years which he had spent in close communion with 
nature. The subject may be only a single figure drawn 
with a few strokes of charcoal, or an expanse of open 
plain under the sunset sky dashed in with coloured 
chalks, but the impression is as vivid and complete as 
possible. We feel the man's whole soul is there, and 



374 



J. F. MILLET 



those small figures and simple landscapes have more 
power to move us than the most finished pictures of 
academic masters. 

Many of Millet's so-called pastels are nothing but 
crayon studies, heightened with a tint of colour in sky 
or water, and it is often hard to say where one ends 
and the other begins. But his consummate knowledge of 
the laws of light enabled him to produce the finest effects 
with these simple means. The delicate gradations of rose 
and violet in the evening sky, the silver rays of the 
moonlight on the water, the fog that clings to the river- 
banks in the early morning, the flying scud and breezy 
clouds on the sea-shore — are all rendered with perfect 
truth and accuracy. A few touches of colour, a few 
pencil-strokes, are enough to bring the whole scene before 
our eyes, and to make us realize that grande harmonie 
which sank into the painter's soul as he watched the 
sun go down over the plain. In these pastels Millet has 
helped to solve the problems of light and air which have 
occupied the attention of recent artists, and has justified 
his right to a place by the side of Manet and his fol- 
lowers. Many of these pastels are replicas or slightly 
altered versions of subjects which Millet had already 
treated in oil-painting. The pastel of the Angelus, for 
instance, which now belongs to Mr. Forbes, was painted 
many years after the picture, and represents an alto- 
gether different effect. While in the oil-painting we 
have the Angelus du Soir, and the plain is growing 
dim under the deepening twilight, in the pastel the hour 
chosen is six o'clock in the morning, when the sunrise 
is flooding the sky, and the season of the year is no 
longer autumn, but early spring, as is evident by the 
appearance of the first signs of vegetation. Such, too, 
are the pastels of Le Semeur, Les Glaneuses, V Homme 
a la Houe, and V Homme a la Veste. The last-named 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



175 



shows us the tired labourer pulling on his coat with a 
gesture at once expressive of weariness, and relief that 
the long day's toil is over and the hour of rest at hand. 
Here, again, the glow that lingers in the western skies 
and the slowly fading light are admirably rendered. We 
see the dimness creeping over the plain, and the distant 
forms of horse and plough as they loom darkly through 
the twilight, reminding us of Virgil's line on the 
lengthening shadows which had made so deep an im- 
pression on the painter's childish fancy. Another pastel 
— one of the largest and finest that Millet ever executed, 
and which, as far as we know, exists in no other form 
— represents an aged vine-dresser snatching a brief in- 
terval of rest in the noonday heat. The utter exhaustion 
of the old, bare-footed labourer, who, throwing hat and 
coat aside, sinks worn out on a heap of stones, in the 
blazing sun, is rendered with almost painful reality. His 
hoe is in the ground, hard by, and his seamed and 
wrinkled hands clasp the empty bottle from which he 
has sought to slake his thirst. And all around, in 
strange contrast to this picture of exhausted humanity, 
nature renews her youth, and the leaves wave in all the 
beauty of spring verdure. 

One subject, we know, on which Millet was never 
tired of dwelling, was the shepherd of the plain. Infinite 
is the variety of forms in which he has illustrated 
this favourite theme in his pastels. There is the familiar 
form of the Barbizon shepherd in the long cloak, lean- 
ing on his staff, while his sheep nibble the short 
grass, or wending his way home in the pale light of 
the crescent moon. And there is the young bergere 
with the grave eyes and gentle face, not yet seamed by 
age, or hardened by long exposure to air. We all seem 
to know that pathetic little figure, whether she is seen 
sitting on the stile at the edge of the copse, where the 



376 



J. F. MILLET 



young trees are bursting into leaf, or whether, as in the 
pastel of the Secretan sale, she walks homeward in the 
dusk, knitting as she goes, sure that the sheep will 
follow her to the safe shelter of the fold. Among sundry 
other versions we will only mention two more. One 
is that sweetest of spring pastorals, where the little 
shepherd-girl, scarcely more than a child herself, bears 
the new-born lamb home in her arms, and turns with 
tender thoughtfulness to look at the bleating ewe which 
follows close behind. The other is an autumn picture, 
and the sheep are scattered over the plain, while the 
two young girls who are watching them, look up with 
eyes intently fixed on a troop of wild geese winging 
their way across the darkening sky, as if they, too, 
longed to follow them in their distant flight. This little 
pastel, in its sober tints and exquisite simplicity, is a 
poem in itself. 

All forms of peasant-labour, we have seen, are illus- 
trated in Millet's pastels. But not labour alone. Millet 
knew as well as any man living that hard, monotonous 
toil does not make up the whole of the peasant's life, 
that there is a brighter side to the picture. The thought 
of home, the presence of the wife and child, who cheer 
the labourer's toil and gladden the cottage hearth, has 
supplied him with a whole cycle of subjects for pastel 
and pencil. His picture of the young husband and wife 
going out to work was reproduced in many of his slighter 
sketches, and was always a popular subject. The same 
cheerful air and frank enjoyment mark the pastel of 
the labourer's noonday rest. Here the young man is 
sitting on a wheelbarrow, in the act of striking a flint 
to light his pipe, while his wife, who has been help- 
ing him to pull up the potatoes in their own carefully 
cultivated plot of ground, rests on the grass at his 
side. The Retour au Village is another theme which he 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



77 



frequently illustrated. There we see the young couple 
who started so blithely in the early morning, wending 
their way slowly home up the narrow path through the 
cornfield. There the tired wood-cutter, who has borne 
the burden and heat of the day, staggers along under 
his load of faggots; there again the man leads the 
donkey, on which his wife rides, along the banks of the 
winding stream, when the moon has risen and the stars 
are bright. Then we have the interior of the cottage 
home, where the wife is busy at her household work, 
and the baby slumbers in his cradle. Sometimes it is 
night, and the mother is sewing by the light of her 
lamp, while her husband is making baskets. Or else it 
is a summer evening, and through the open window we 
see the man digging his garden, and we catch the scent 
of the flowers and hear the murmur of the bees outside, 
while the young mother sits at her knitting within, and 
rocks the cradle with her foot. Again we see the good 
wife and mother gathering her little ones around her for 
their mid-day meal, feeding them all by turns — as in the 
Lille picture — from the same bowl, or blowing the spoon- 
ful of broth to make it cool for her youngest-born. 
Children of all ages are represented — from the earliest 
phases of babyhood to the big boys and girls who herd 
the geese and cattle, and take their share of field-work. 
There is the baby-boy in the arms of the little sister 
hardly bigger than himself, sitting under the walnut- 
tree in the yard, blissful in his unconscious enjoyment 
of the sunshine and open air and the company of the 
chickens and ducks. There we see him again a few 
months older, making his first attempt to walk, and tod- 
dling from his mother's side towards the proud father, 
who stretches out his arms to welcome his tottering foot- 
steps. Even more touching than Les Premiers Pas in its 
exquisite simplicity is that other pastel where the young 



37* 



J. F. MILLET 



father stands sadly in the doorway, holding out a cup of 
tisane for the sick child whom the anxious mother clasps 
in her arms. It is hard to describe the tender feeling of 
this little picture, the anxiety expressed in the hesitating 
air and sorrowful face of the strong-limbed youth, and 
the passionate love in the embrace of the poor mother, 
whose whole thoughts are absorbed in her child. 

But Millet's knowledge of country life and his sympathy 
with toilers in the fields was not limited to the human 
race. His keen powers of observation, his familiarity 
with peasant-life in all its varied phases, led him to look 
with interest on all living things, more especially on the 
dumb creatures which divide the labours, and share the 
affections of the peasant's home. His sympathy with 
animal life appears in a hundred different ways. The 
family cat — that privileged member of the poorest house- 
hold, who has her own place on the hearth, and arches 
her back at the sight of an intruder — who rubs up 
against the skirts of the fermiere and catches the drops 
of cream that splash from the churn; the house-dog, 
who, with eye and ear alert, keeps watch at night in 
the courtyard, ringed by the low fence, when the world 
is plunged in sleep and the full moon rises over the broad 
plain ; the rooks flying home across the winter sky on a 
snowy day ; the rabbits burrowing in the rocky caves of 
the gorges d'Apremont ; the startled deer, roused from 
his lair in the forest — each and all have a place in his 
drawings. In one pastel he paints a flock of hungry 
sheep all huddled together, nibbling the leaves off the 
boughs as far as they can reach; in another he shows 
us the stout little horse battling with the raging wind 
on the top of the cliffs, or the patient donkey lying 
down with drooping ears as the rain beats upon the 
open plain. 

Elsewhere he has shown us the little goose-girl driving 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



379 



her flock to the pond, and the geese hurrying down to 
the water with outstretched necks and flapping wings; 
the peasant-woman standing on the edge of the brook 
where her cow is drinking, and careful to let the poor 
little beast go as far as possible into the water without 
wetting her own feet. 

This sympathy with living things was extended to 
the trees and the flowers, to the rocks and the soil under 
his feet. "La terre ! il ny que la terre I " he would 
exclaim; "rien riy meuref" He loved it all; the scant, 
coarse herbage of the plain, and the young wheat spring- 
ing up in the furrow, the fallow ground breaking up 
under the labourer's hoe, the wildflowers in the meadow- 
grass and the moon-daisies at the cottage door, the very 
cabbages growing in rows — all had for him a meaning. 
The old elm, "gnawed by the teeth of the wind," in the 
garden at Gruchy, the apple-trees laden with blossom, 
and the budding hawthorn in the hedges, the deep lanes 
and rich grass of the Norman pastures, he looked upon 
them all with the same delight. He takes an arable 
field with a harrow lying among the heaps of manure 
in the foreground and a ploughshare beyond for his sub- 
ject, and paints it with a truth and accuracy that com- 
pels our admiration. Even frost and snow had their 
charms for him. He loved to paint the pine-trees of the 
forest when the snow lay thick on the ground, and no 
less than seven winter scenes were among the pastels 
that were sold by M. Gavet after the artist's death. 

But full of charm and variety as Millet's pastels are, 
his charcoal drawings strike us as being in some ways 
even more remarkable. Here, in a few inches of paper, 
without the help of colour, but by sheer force of drawing 
and skilful management of light and shadow, he makes 
us realize the immensity of the horizon, the vastness of 
sea and sky, and depth and clearness of the atmosphere. 



MH 



3 8o 



J. F. MILLET 



" The most important part of colour," he once said to a 
friend, " what is called tone, can be perfectly expressed in 
black and white." And this tone is exactly what he ren- 
ders with such incomparable truth in his drawings. Take 
Les Portenses d'Eau, for instance — that study of women 
drawing water from the river which attracted so much 
attention at the Paris Exhibition. The cool atmosphere 
of the early morning is given with marvellous reality ; 
we see the mist that lies thick along the marshes, while 
the fiery ball of the rising sun hangs in the eastern 
heavens. And in the foreground are those two wonderful 
figures, the kneeling woman swinging her jar over the 
water, and her companion standing on the bank beside her, 
watching her with folded arms. The motive is simple 
enough, but the superb action of the one figure, and the 
majestic pose of the other, lift this common-place subject 
into the loftiest realms of ideal art. So it is with Les 
Lavandieves, a group of women kneeling by the river-side 
wringing out their clothes, while the full moon rises behind 
the tall poplar-trees on the opposite bank ; and with that 
admirable drawing in the Forbes collection, where one 
washerwoman is piling up the linen on her companion's 
shoulder, and through the gathering mists of evening we 
see a boatman rowing across the stream under the light of 
the crescent moon. Still finer is the figure of the panting 
girl who has just set down her water-pails and pauses to 
recover her breath, leaning against a stunted tree on the 
bank of the river. Here you have everything that makes 
a picture — tone, atmosphere, and human feeling. In the 
background there is a group of trees and farm buildings, 
and the whole is set in a frame of light and spacious skies, 
which contrast finely with the dark figure in the fore- 
ground. The same brilliant effect of light lends its charm 
to the drawing of the young peasant- woman rocking her 
baby to sleep in her arms. All the details of the cottage 



HH 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



381 



interior — the small window-panes, the jars on the shelves, 
and the clothes hanging on the chair to dry — are given 
with Millet's habitual accuracy, but the charm of the 
whole is the look of infinite love which the mother bends 
on her babe. As he said himself, " Beauty is expression. 
If I am to paint a mother, I shall try and make her 
beautiful, simply because she is looking at her child." The 
solemn simplicity with which the subject is rendered might 
well make Diaz say that these peasant-drawings of Millet's 
were taken straight out of the Bible. This young mother, 
nursing her sleeping babe, might be the Madonna herself 
with the Christ-child in her arms. These peasants going 
home might easily be taken for the Holy Family on their 
flight into Egypt. One drawing of this subject was in the 
Paris Exhibition of 1889, and differed so little from a 
Ret our au Village hanging close by, that at first sight it was 
difficult to distinguish the one from the other. The Virgin, 
wrapt in a flowing veil, sat on the donkey, while Joseph, 
looking exactly like some aged peasant, walked along the 
narrow path on the river-side, bearing the Child in his 
arms. Only the glory round the Child's brow, and a 
certain mystic beauty in the Virgin's face marked the 
difference, and gave a divine meaning to this group of 
travellers journeying under the starry skies. 

To the end of his days the sacred story had a strong 
attraction for Millet, and he often spoke of incidents in 
the life of Christ which he should like to paint. The 
first drawing which he made as a boy, and took with 
him to the Cherbourg artist, Mouchel, was taken from 
a parable told by St. Luke. And at the end of his 
life, in one of the last talks which he ever had with Mr. 
Wyatt Eaton, he spoke in forcible language of a picture 
of the Nativity which he meant to paint. The text, 
" There was no room for them in the inn," appealed to 
him in a peculiar manner, and he longed to represent 



382 



J. F. MILLET 



the poor travellers from Nazareth turned away from the 
doors of the house at Bethlehem, and not knowing where 
to lay their heads on that first Christmas night. But he 
died before he could carry out his intention. A pathetic 
drawing of Christ upon the Cross, with his arms raised 
high above his head, now the property of his son-in-law, 
M. Heymann, and a singularly impressive study of the 
Resurrection, remain to show us what great work he might 
have done in this line. In the last-named sketch, Christ 
is seen rising from the tomb, bursting the bonds of death 
and ascending heavenwards in a blaze of glory, while the 
keepers fall as dead men to the ground. The originality 
of the conception is as striking as the power and truth 
with which the action is rendered. 

These drawings, we repeat, are Millet's supreme tech- 
nical achievements. All his sense of rhythm, his keen 
instinct for beauty of line, his unerring vision and sure- 
ness of hand are present in these sketches, where, with 
means of the simplest kind, he has attained such great re- 
sults. Each is in its way a complete picture, full of unity, 
strength, and significance. And taken as a whole, they 
represent the finest qualities of his art and are the very 
flower of his genius. Here, in his own words, the trivial 
becomes sublime, and the little day of life loses itself in 
the boundless spaces of the infinite. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



383 



III 



THE artist," Millet himself has said, " is not to be 
judged by his work, but by his aim." In his eyes 
the medium which he employed was comparatively insigni- 
ficant to the message which he had to give. Whatever he 
produced, paintings in oil or water-colour, pastel or crayon 
drawings, his aim remained the same. " Every one," he 
said to Sensier in the early days of their friendship, " ought 
to have a central thought, tine pensee mere, which he ex- 
presses with all the strength of his soul, and tries to stamp 
on the hearts of others." This he insists upon repeatedly, 
in the letters and conversations which have been recorded 
here ; and in an unpublished fragment in his handwriting, 
now in the Print-room of the British Museum, we find the 
following words : 

" I have often met people who say with assurance, ' You must at 
least allow that there are certain rules of composition.' And they 
assume an air of importance, and are confident that what they say is 
true, because they have really seen it in a book ! But since I have 
long felt that composition is only the means of telling others our 
thoughts in the clearest and most forcible way possible, and since I 
am convinced that ideas will of themselves find out the best means 
of expression, you may judge of my embarrassment ! " 

His horror of conventional methods, of the clever 
execution which takes the place of serious purpose, and 
of the ornamental accessories that distract attention from 
the central thought, is more fully expressed in the follow- 
ing notes upon art which he wrote at Sensier's request, 
and which were found by M. Paul Mantz, among his 
friend's papers : 



3^4 



J. F. MILLET 



"When Poussin sent his picture of The Manna- Gatherers to M. 
de Chantelou, he did not say to him, ' See, what fine painting ! Look 
how cleverly that is managed ! ' Nothing of the kind. He says : 
' If you remember what I wrote before as to the action of the figures 
which I meant to introduce, and consider this picture as a whole, 
I think you will recognise the different persons who suffer, or wan- 
der, those who take pity on others, and who are in sore need them- 
selves, and so on, for the seven figures on the left will explain all 
this, and the rest is of the same kind.' Too many painters fail 
to consider the effect produced by a picture, when it is seen from a 
distance, which allows us to judge of the whole. You always find 
people who say of a picture in which the general impression is 
complete : ' Ah ! but when you come nearer, you will see it is not 
properly painted.' And of another which produces no effect at a 
distance : ' Look how fine the execution is, if only you are near 
enough ! ' But they are many. Nothing counts except what is 
fundamental. When a tailor tries on a coat, he stands back to 
judge of the whole effect. If that satisfies the eye, he then turns 
his attention to details ; but a tailor who devoted his attention to 
fine button-holes, and produced masterpieces of this description on 
a badly-cut coat, would do a very bad business. Is not this the 
same with an architectural monument, or any other work of art ? 
The manner in which a work is conceived is the great thing, and 
everything else must follow the same lines. The same atmosphere 
must pervade the whole. The environment may be of one character 
or another, but whichever aspect of the scene you choose must re- 
main supreme. We should be accustomed to receive our impres- 
sions direct from nature, whatever their kind, and whatever our own 
temperament may be. We should be steeped in her, saturated with 
her, and careful only to think the thoughts that she inspires. She 
is rich enough to supply us all. And where else should we turn but 
to the one true source ? Why are we for ever to go on setting the 
discoveries of other great minds, who, in Palissy's words, ' searched 
out her entrails with unremitting zeal,' before our students, as the 
final goal and aim of their endeavour ? These were never intended 
to take the place of nature herself. And yet we try to make the 
productions of a few masters the type and pattern of all future art. 
Men of genius are, as it were, endowed with a divining-rod. Some 
discover one thing in nature, some another, according to their tem- 
perament. Each finds what he is destined to find. But once the 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



;§5 



treasure is dug up and carried off, it is absurd to see how others 
come and scratch in the same spot. You must know how to find 
out where the truffles are ! A dog who has no scent cannot be a 
good sportsman, since he can only follow in the track of another. 
And when it is only a case of copying others, you cannot run very 
eagerly, since there is nothing to move your enthusiasm. The mis- 
sion of men of genius is to reveal that portion of nature's riches 
which they have discovered, to those who would never have sus- 
pected their existence. They interpret nature to those who cannot 
understand her language. They might say with Palissy, ' You will 
find these things in my treasure-house.' If you abandon yourself to 
her service, as we have done, she will give you of her store, accord- 
ing to the measure of your capacity. All you need is intelligence 
and a great desire. 

" It is only an immense pride or an equally immense folly which 
makes people think they can rectify the supposed faults and bad 
taste of nature. What authority have they for this presumption ? 
It is easy to see that with men who can neither love nor understand 
her beauties, she hides her face and retires into her shell. At best 
she can only meet them on terms of constraint and reserve. And 
so they say the grapes are sour. Since we cannot understand 
nature, let us slander her by way of revenge. The words of the 
prophet might be applied to them : ' God resisteth the proud, but 
giveth grace to the humble.' Nature gives herself without reserve 
to all who come to inquire of her. But she is a jealous mistress 
and must be loved alone. If we love works of art, it is because they 
come from her. All the rest is pedantry and emptiness. 

" We can start from any point to reach the sublime, and every- 
thing is proper to be expressed, if only your aim is high enough. 
Then what you love with the greatest power and passion becomes 
the ideal of beauty which you impose upon others. Let each of us 
have his own. A profound impression will always find out a way of 
expression, and naturally seeks how to declare itself in the most 
forcible manner. The whole of nature's arsenal has been at the 
disposal of men of might, and their genius has made them employ, 
not what we may think the most beautiful things, but the most suit- 
able. Has not everything in creation its own place and hour? 
Who would venture to say that a potato is inferior to a pome- 
granate ? Decadence set in from the moment that Art, which was 
in point of fact the child of Nature, became the supreme goal, 

c c 



3 86 



J. F. MILLET 



and men took some great artist for their model, forgetting that his 
eyes had been fixed on the infinite. They talked of working from 
nature, but they approached her in a conventional form. If, for 
instance, they wished to paint an open-air subject, they copied the 
model indoors, without reflecting that the light of the atelier had 
little in common with the all-pervading light of open day. Artists 
would never have been so easily satisfied had they been moved by 
a really deep emotion. For since what is infinite can only be ex- 
pressed by a faithful record of actual fact, this falsehood nullified all 
their efforts. There can be no isolated truth. From the moment 
that technical merits were made the first object in painting, one 
thing became clear : any one who had acquired considerable ana- 
tomical knowledge tried to bring this side of his art forward and was 
loudly praised. No one reflected that these admirable qualities 
ought to have been used, like everything else, to express ideas. 
Instead of trying to express definite thoughts, the successful artist 
drew up his programme and chose subjects which afforded oppor- 
tunities for the display of his own skilful handicraft. And instead 
of using knowledge as the handmaid of thought, thought itself 
was stifled under a brilliant display of fireworks. One artist copied 
another, and the fashion became general. But want of practice 
and skill in writing makes my language obscure ; so try and dis- 
cover what I want to say without making use of my actual words. 
What I meant to say has not been sufficiently considered, and I 
have left a great deal unsaid. But I will try and come back to the 
subject when I have more leisure." 

These principles lay at the root of all Millet's work. 
Go to nature for your impressions, steep yourself in her, 
let your whole being be saturated with her ! — that is the 
cry which he is never weary of repeating, the one word 
which he would hand on to future generations. Nature 
had indeed been his one great teacher, from the days when 
as a boy he stood on the cliffs of Gr6ville and gazed in 
silent awe over the seas ; and up to the last days of his 
life his love and sympathy for her increased more and 
more. 



"Before I knew Millet," writes Mr. Wyatt Eaton, "I had suffered 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



;§7 



much pain in finding that few artists really loved nature. They 
seemed to care only for that which it suited them to paint ; but in 
Millet I found a man who adored the stars, the moon, and the 
sun, the earth, the air, and everything that the sun shone upon. 
And through this love everything that he touched — frequently the 
least things of the earth — became monuments." 

So well had he learnt her great lesson, so rich was the 
store of natural facts which he had laid up in his mind, 
that in his latter years he could reproduce effects of 
atmosphere, the texture and colour of objects, or parti- 
cular attitudes and gestures, with the most perfect accu- 
racy, without having the landscape or model before him. 
In fact, in these last years he remarked that he worked 
little from nature, adding, "for she does not pose." His 
ordinary practice was to take small sketches or memo- 
randa of landscapes or figures, indicating the principal 
outlines and shadows, and accentuating any prominent 
features which were to give the picture its character, and 
supply all the rest from his memory. For instance, he 
would draw a group of wheat-ricks in one of these little 
sketch-books, about two and a half by three inches in 
size, carefully noting the shape of the ricks, the sinking 
and bulging which were the result of exposure to weather, 
and from this rough pen-and-ink outline afterwards pro- 
duce a complete and accurately-modelled picture. In 
drawing figures, he often regretted the difficulty of obtain- 
ing living models at Barbizon. Madame Millet herself 
frequently sat to him, and wore the roughest of peasant 
clothes so as to be ready to pose at any moment when 
her services were required. Sometimes she complained 
of having to wear the same skirt for weeks together, in 
order that the rough linen should take the right folds, 
and "become," Millet said, "as it were part of the body, 
and express, even better than the nude, the larger and 
more simple forms of nature." For the same purpose, he 



3o5 J. F. MILLET 

had a large mirror fixed in his atelier, in order that he 
might study movements or details of drapery from his 
own person. 

" Working, as he did, almost without models," writes Mr. Wyatt 
Eaton, "he was his own model for everything, feeling deeply and 
giving the action with intensity and reality. In fact, what has 
been said of the saints experiencing in their own bodies the suffer- 
ings of Christ, was true of Millet in his art." 

It was never his habit to make elaborate studies of his 
pictures. As a rule he drew the figure in charcoal upon 
the canvas, in the most careful and painstaking manner. 
Every touch was added slowly and deliberately, but the 
process was as sure as it was slow, and no time was lost 
in rubbing out what had been done. The general impres- 
sion, he always insisted, was the great thing in a picture. 

"One man," he remarked, "may paint a picture from a 
careful drawing made on the spot, and another may paint 
the same scene from memory, from a brief but strong 
impression, and the last may succeed better in giving the 
character and physiognomy of the place, even though all 
the details may be inexact." 72 fant bien sentir — we 
must feel deeply if we are to paint at all, he always 
insisted. "A man must be touched himself if he is to 
touch others ; or else his work, however clever, will never 
have the breath of life, and he will be nothing better 
than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." 

All his life he was condensing and simplifying facts, 
striving to attain greater force and clearness of expres- 
sion ; in his own words, trying to render his ideas with 
largeness and simplicity. We have already seen how 
fond he was of making sketches for the amusement of 
his children and grandchildren. In the last months of 
his life, he took especial delight in drawing pictures for 
his eldest grandson, before the boy was able to talk, and 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



;8 9 



seeing if he recognised the objects that were placed on 
paper before him. It was touching to see the pains which 
the great artist took to reach the child's infant imagina- 
tion, and what pleasure it gave him when little Antoine 
knew the figures or animals which his grandfather drew. 
One evening Millet made a sketch of the child himself, 
in the act of blowing out a gigantic candle. Little An- 
toine looked earnestly at the drawing for a few moments, 
and then, turning to the table, tried to blow out the 
candle that was nearest to him. Millet was delighted 
with the success of his experiment, and pointed out the 
great principle which had been illustrated by the uncon- 
scious child, saying that just as he had represented the 
candle three or four times larger than its natural size, 
in order to attract little Antoine' s notice, so it was neces- 
sary to bring certain forms and movements into strong 
relief, in order to create a vivid impression. This is ex- 
actly what Millet does in his own drawings. He fastens 
on the central and fundamental idea to the exclusion of 
all irrelevant detail, and allows nothing to distract the 
mind from the principal subject. And in this he showed 
himself the inheritor of the great traditions of classical 
art. This man, whom his enemies reviled as a hater of 
the antique, who worked, they declared, in direct anta- 
gonism to the received principles, had in reality a truer 
appreciation of Greek art than any of his academic rivals. 
He was a true classic, who, as we know, loved Virgil 
from his boyhood, found in the idylls of Theocritus a 
poetry after his own heart, and kept the marbles of 
ancient Hellas ever before his eyes. 

To suppress the accidental and enforce the essential 
was his constant endeavour. No pre-Raphaelite was ever 
more conscientious in avoiding all useless accessories and 
in confining himself to strictly significant details. " Mon 
rive" he once wrote, u est de caracUriser le type." In all 



39Q 



J. F. MILLET 



his work he keeps this aim steadily before his eyes. 
The individual gives way to the typical, and the lower 
truth is deliberately sacrificed for the sake of the higher. 
In his own words: "Nothing counts but what is funda- 
mental." 

This way of seeing things, or, as M. Andre Michel 
has said, " cette fa$on de voir grand, simple, et d' ensemble, " 
is the keynote of all Millet's work, and the secret of the 
unity and grandeur which is never absent from his 
smallest sketch. It was this which Decamps felt when 
he said: "I paint a peasant at the edge of a brook: Millet 
represents a man standing on the bank of a river." And 
it is this largeness of style which gives his works their 
monumental character. His Semeur, his Homme a la 
Houe, his Jeune Bergere, are heroic types of their order, 
and sum up the story of whole generations of toilers. 
They represent all that is noblest and most pathetic in 
that peasant-life which Millet knew so well, all the deeper 
meanings and larger truths which lie hidden beneath the 
surface. All that Carlyle has told us of the dignity of 
labour, all that Wordsworth has sung of the beauty of 
rustic homes and the poetry of common things, lives 
again on the canvases of the Norman peasant-painter. 
Here Millet has proved himself the true child of his 
age. First among artists he opened our eyes to the 
unregarded loveliness that lies around us, to the glory of 
toil and the eternal mystery of that "cry of the ground" 
which haunted his soul. First among them, he realized 
the artistic capabilities of modern life and the profound 
significance of those problems of labour and poverty 
which this generation has been compelled to face. Others 
were to change the scene from the country to the town, 
to apply the same principles to the crowded streets and 
hurrying life of our great cities. For Millet the life of 
the fields was enough. 



HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



391 



He painted man, not as a separate being, but as part of 
a great and changeless order, and showed us the close- 
ness of the tie that links human joys and sorrows with 
the changes of the seasons and the beauty of the natural 
world. And this message he delivered in no hasty and 
unconsidered spirit, but with consummate knowledge and 
mastery, in obedience to eternal and unalterable laws. 



The dream of his life has been realized, although he was 
not allowed to see its fulfilment, and the power and pas- 
sion with which his work still speaks to the hearts of this 
generation has not been in vain. The range of art, we 
feel, is for ever widened by this man's genius. Never 
again can we look on those hewers of wood and drawers 
of water, never again can we see the sower scattering 
his seed, or the gleaners stooping to gather the ripened 
corn, without recalling the majestic forms of Millet's 
types. His place with the immortals is sure. His fame 
rests on secure foundations, and his work, modern as it is 
to the core, has more of the true Greek spirit than any 
other of our age. His pictures of seed-time and harvest, 
of morning and evening, will rank with the great art 
of all time — with the frieze of the Parthenon and with 
the frescoes of Michelangelo. 



INDEX 



About, Edmond : Criticism of Millet, 292. 
Adoration of the Magi : 34. 
Allant Travailler : 1 14-15, 142, 250. 
Alsace, Visit to : 311. 
Amour Vainqueur, V : 77 - 8, 370, 373. 
Angehts du Matin, L' (Pastel) ; 370. 
Angelus du Soir, £' : 179, 201, 204, 205, 
264, 297, 323, 337, 362, 363, 365- 

9- 

— Final home of, 353. 
Attente, L' : 122, 141. 
Auvergne, Visit to : 294-95. 

Babcock, William : 135, 312. 

Bacchantes, The : 73« 

Baratteuse, La: 142, 316-319, 337. 

Barbizon : Journey to, 93-4 ; Life at, 94- 
352 ; Home at, 102-3, 131— 3, 
355; Return to, 330; present 
state of village, 357, 358. 

— School : Masters of the, 101. 
Barye, 91, 100, 158, 160, 329, 356. 
Becheurs, Les : 142, 153. 
Becquee, La: 207, 211, 220, 331. 
Berger, Letter to : 307-8. 
Berger, Le : 230, 237, 238, 297. 
Bergere, La: 246, 250, 253-4, 256-7, 

262, 332, 365, 369. 

— (second) : 369. 

— (Pastel) : 369. 
Bigot, M. Charles, 164. 

Blanc, M. : Arrangement with, 205 ; 

Letters to, 244-6 
Blanc and Stevens : Effects of quarrel 

between, 215, 217. 
Botteleurs, Les : 112. 

— Gautier's criticism of, 112. 
Boucher : Millet's criticism of, 50-51. 
Bruyas, M. Alfred : Letter to, 333. 
Buckwheat Threshers : v. Recolte du Sar- 

rasin. 

Cadart, 224. 

Campredon Sale, The : 172-3, 174, 175. 

Captivity of the Jews in Babylon : 83. 

Cardeuse, La : 237, 238, 244. 

Cattle led to the Slaughterhouse : 85. 

Cerfaux Ecoutes : 225, 229, 358. 

Chailly, Cemetery of : 234-236, 352-354, 

357- 
Chapel of La Madeleine, nr. Cusset : 302. 
Charity Feeding her Children : 61. 
Chassaing, M. : Friendship with, 246; 

Letters to, 246-7, 248-9, 305. 
Chennevieres, M. : Order from, 341-3, 

344- 
Cherbourg : Flight to, 321 ; Life at, 324- 

29 ; Return to, 65 ; Studies at, 

31-33- 

— Generosity of Town Councillors, 37- 

38. 
Child Bird-nesting : 73. 



Church of Greville : 332, 334, 369. 

Cliffs of Gruchy : v. Falaises de Gruchy. 

Communist Revolt : 325. 

Confession of Faith, Millet's : 239, 246, 
260. 

Corot : His kindness to Millet's widow, 
353 ; His opinion of Millet, 183— 
4 ; His unpopularity, 63. 

Couseuse, La : 142. 

Couseuses, Les : 116. 

Couture : His opinion of Millet, 54. 

Cowherd calling his Cows : 332, 339. 

Cueilleuse d' Haricots, La : 8. 

Daphnis and Chloe : 73. 
Daumier, 158, 276, 356. 
Decamps : 356 ; opinion of Millet, 390 ; 

unpopularity of, 63. 
Delacroix : 53, 63, 168, 184; Exhibition 

of, 257-8, 274-5. 
Delaroche, Paul : Millet enters Studio 

of, 54; His opinion of Millet, 55, 

56, 57- 
Diaz : 69-70, 159, 166, 170-73, 204, 

209-10, 274, 356. 
Dumoucel, Bon : Millet becomes pupil 

of, 31 ; First Visit to, 31-2. 
Dupre, Jules : 83, 91, 178, 356. 

Eaton, Wyatt : 135 ; Recollections of, 
338-41 ; Second Visit of, 347-51. 

End of the Village of Greville: 290, 309. 

Exhibition, International of 1867 : Millet 
Exhibits at, 297 ; Success at, 300, 
301 ; His pictures at Exhibition 
of 1889, 364. 365- 

Falaises de Gruchy, L.es: 330, 331, 332, 

345- 
Faneurs, Les : 89, 90. 
Farm on the Heights of V A rdoisiere : 302. 
" Federt-.ion des Artistes " : Millet 

elected Member of, 326 ; Declines 

the honour, 326. 
Fetnme a la Lampe, La : 332, 334, 336, 

337, 338. 
Fetnme aux Seaux, La : 207, 220, 363, 

370. 
Feuardent, M. : Letters to. 283-4, 2 88, 

322. 
— Mme. : Letter to, 314. 
Feydeau, M. : Commission from, 252-4, 

255, 258, 259-60, 261, 267, 272, 

280. 
Fields of Malavaux : 302. 
Fileuse, La : 319, 365, 369. 
Flock of Geese: 298, 337. 
Flute Lesson, The : 73. 
Fontainebleau : Attempt to spoil Forest 

of, 232, 234. 
Forget, M. : Letter to, 280. 
Franco- Prussian War : 320-21. 

D D 



394 



INDEX 



Gatherers of Wood in the Forest : 105. 
Gautier, Theophile : Criticism by, 112, 

213, 33*-' 
Gavet, M. : Letter to, 294 ; Orders from, 

282, 287-90, 292 ; Prophecy of, 

293 : Sale of, 354, 362, 369. 
George, M. : Millet's introduction to, 47. 
Girl Brushing away the Flies from the 

Face of her Sleeping Lover : 73« 
Glaneuses, Lts : 142, 175, 176, 178, 297, 

. 363. 365. 369- 
Goupil, M. : Correspondence with, 230. 
Grande Baratteuse, La : 316-7, 318, 

319, 337- 

Grande Bergere, La : 142. 

Grande Tondeuse, La : 207, 211, 212-3, 
220, 297, 363, 364, 370; Criti- 
cism on, 208, 209. 



Millet' 



Jumelin, 



Visit to, 122-4 J 
127-30; Third 



Grandmother, 

Louise. 
Greffeur, Le : 362, 370. 
Greville : Life at, 3-34 ; 

Second Visit to, 

Visit, 327-8. 
— Schoolmaster : Letter to the, 342-3. 
Gruchy: Home at, 4-5, 25-7, 33-4; 

Meeting of family at, 123-4. 

Hameau Cousin : 141. 

Hartmann, M. : 226, 306, 309, 311, 332, 

336, 341, 344, 345, 362, 367. 

Hay-Binders : v. Botleleurs, Lcs. 

Hay- Makers : v. Faneurs, Les. 

Herpent, L'Abbe : 19, 23. 

Heymann, M. : 191, 382. 

Homme a la Houc, L' : 218, 225, 237, 
238-9, 243. 244, 363, 365 ; Ad- 
verse Criticism of, 238 ; Defence 
of, 241. 

Homme a la Veste, L 1 : 363. 

Horses drinking at the Fountaitt of Mont- 
mar tie : 85. 

Hunt, William Morris : Friendship with, 
134-5- 

Jacob in Laban's Tents : 62. 

Jacque, Charles : 75, 81, 232-234. 

/eune Bergere, La : 297, 363. 

Jouvenet : Criticism by, 51. 

Jumelin, Louise : 6, 8-10; Death of, 119. 

Langloisde Chevreville, Painter : 34, 36 > 
Letter to Town Council of Cher- 
bourg, 36-7. 

Laure, Jenny: 210-11. 

Lavandieres, L,es : 380-2. 

Lebrisseux, Jean, L'Abbe : 23-4 ; Meet- 
ing with, 229-30. 

Lebrun : Criticism by, 51. 

Legion of Honour : Millet created Knight 
of the, 310. 

Lemerre (Publisher) : 313. 

Lemonnier, M. Camille : Letter to, 335. 



Lessiveuse, La : 337. 

Lesueur : Criticism by, 51. 

Letrone, M. : Action of, 192 ; Orders 

from, 126-7. 
Lieu Bailly : 332. 
Little Shepherd, The: 330, 331. 
Louvre : Millet's First Visit to the, 48-9; 

His pictures in the, 369. 
Luce, Simon : Article by, 223. 
Luxembourg, The : Impression made on 

Millet by pictures in, 50. 

Mantz, Paul: Article by, 195 ; Continues 

biography of Millet, 278. 
Marolle, Louis : Friendship with, 59-62, 

. 75- 
Martinet's Rooms : Exhibition in, 220, 

222. 
Martyrdom ofSainte Barbe : 65. 
Materniti, La: 332. 
Maxims, Millet's : 161-3, 164. 
Medal awarded to Millet : 125. 
Meules, Les: 332, 334, 365. 
Michelangelo, Millet's Admiration of: 

53- 
Milkmaid, The : 69. 
Mill, The: 243. 
Millet, Catherine: 71-2, 157-8, 268, 

271, 280; State Pension for, 354; 

Death, 357. 

— Charles, L'Abbe: 10, 13-16. 

— Emilie : 11, 128; Death, 290-91. 

— Jean Baptiste : joins Jean Francois, 

144. 

— Jean Francois : Birth, 4 ; Parentage, 

6-8 ; Childish Recollections, 
11-17, 20-23; Education, 17, 19, 
23-4; First Communion, 19; Love 
of Virgil, 19-20 ; First Signs of 
Genius, 29-30; Visit to Dumoucel, 
31-2; Life at Cherbourg, 32-3, 
34 ; Departure for Paris, 38-9 ; 
First Impressions of Paris, 39-40, 
44, 49 ; Life in Paris, 43-64, 
68-70, 73-93 ; Personal Character, 
43-4, 149, as drawn by Wheel- 
wright, 151-67 ; Introduction to 
M. George, 47 ; First Visit to the 
Louvre, 48-9 ; Impressions of the 
Luxembourg, 50 ; Life in Dela- 
roche's studio, 54-58 ; Poverty, 
62, 82, 84, 85-7, 1 17-18, 145-9, 
151, 182; Picture accepted at 
Salon, 63 ; Visit home, 64 ; Mar- 
riage, 67 ; Death of Wife, 70 ; 
Second Marriage, 71 ; Friendship 
with Sensier, 78-81 ; Dislike of 
Paris, 81 ; Resolves to renounce 
the nude, 89-90 ; Receives order 
from State, 88 ; Goes to Barbizon, 
93-4 ; Life at Barbizon, 94-352 ; 
Friendship with Rousseau, 101 ; 



INDEX 



395 



Home at Barbizon, 102-3, I 3 I_ 3> 
270-72. 

Resolves to paint Peasant Life, 106 ; 
Death of Mother, 121 ; Medal 
taken, 125 ; Friendship with W. 
M. Hunt, 134-5 ; Associates, 
1 34-S, 158-9; Prosperity, 141, 
315-316; learns Etching, 142-3; 
Maxims, 161-3, 164; Love of 
Reading, 165 ; Dislike to Exhibi- 
tions, 171 ; Bad Health, 186-8 ; 
Alterations in Home, 201-2 ; Ad- 
verse Criticism of, 213; Dislike 
of Interference with Nature, 232-3, 
234 ; Attempts to preserve Forest 
of Fontainebleau, 232, 234-5 ; 
his "Confession of Faith," 239, 
240, 260. 

Letters to Blanc, 244-6 ; to Pello- 
quet, 241-3 ; to Chassaing, 246-7, 
248-9 ; to Sensier, 104-5, io 5 _ 7» 
1 13-4, 122, 123, 125-6, 126-7, 
127-8, 144, i45- 6 » 171-2, 173-4, 
179, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 
192-3, 197-8, 198-9, 199, 201, 
202-3, 2I °, 211-12, 215, 216, 
217-18, 218-20, 221-2, 222-3, 
224-5, 226-7, 227-8, 229, 230-1, 
233-4, 235, 237-8, 243-4, 249-50, 
252-3, 254-5, 255-6, 257-61, 
264-5, 266, 268-9, 273-4, 274-5, 
276-8, 281, 282, 283, 284-6, 
287-8, 290-1, 293, 294-5, 296, 
298-9, 299-300, 305, 306, 309-10, 
312, 313, 314-15, 3I/-8, 321, 
322-3, 325, 326, 327, 330-1, 
333- 336, 341 ; to Piedagnel, 272-3 ; 
to Forget, 280; to Feuardent, 
283-4, 288, 305, 322; to Mme. 
Feuardent, 314 ; to Rousseau, 
292, 303 ; to Gavet, 294 ; to 
Berger, 307-8 ; to Bruyas, 333 ; 
to Lemonnier, 335 ; to Greville 
Schoolmaster, 342-3. 

Friendship with Chassaing, 246, 
305 ; Illness of Wife, 268, 280, 
293; Medal awarded, 301 ; Knight 
of Legion of Honour, 310; Visit 
to Alsace, 311 ; to Switzerland, 
311 ; Marriage of Daughters, 316; 
Placed on Jury of Salon, 318-9 ; 
Arrest, 321 ; Last Visit to Gre- 
ville, 327-9 ; Illness, 337-8 ; Cri- 
ticisms on Art, 348-51 ; Last 
Days, 351-2 ; Death, 352 ; Burial, 
353 ; Tombstone, 357 ; Sale of 
unfinished Pictures, 354, 362 ; 
Present Owners of Works, 361-7 1 ; 
Ultimate Place, 372 ; Statue to, 
364 ; Triumphs of, 363-4 ; his 
Pastels, 374-9 ; Charcoal Draw- 
ings, 379-82 ; General Views on 



Art, 383-6 ; on Decay of modern 
Art, 168-70 ; Methods of Work- 
ing, 387-9I- 
Millet, Jean Louis : 6-7 ; Death of, 33. 

— Marianne : Death of, 356. 

— Pierre : at Gruchy, 64 ; Joins Jean 

Francois, 143 ; Letter by Millet to, 

196 ; Return from America, 350. 
Ministry, Order from the : 341-3, 344. 
Miracle des Ardent s : 344. 
Moissonneurs, Les : 104, 370. 
Montpellier, Museum of: Order from, 

315. 
Mart et le Bticheron, La: 194-5, 203, 

204 ; Rejection of, by Salon, 195. 
Mother Feeding her Children : v. Becquee, 

La. 
Mouchel : v. Dumoucel. 

Napoleon III. : Estimate of Millet, 307. 

Night: 290. 

Nouveau-Ne', Le: 250, 251, 258,264,370. 

Novembre: 316. 

Newborn Calf, The: v. Nouveau-Ne, Le. 

CEdipus being taken down from the Tree : 

76-7, 340. 
Offering of Pan : 73. 
Old House at Nacqueville: 330, 331. 
Owners, Present, of Millet's works : 

361-71. 

Pare aux Moutons : 155, 264, 297, 333, 

365, 369, 370-I. 

Paris : Departure for, 38-9 ; First Im- 
pressions of, 39-40, 44, 49 ; Life 
in, 43-64, 68-70, 73-93. 

Peasant a7id his Wife going to Work in 
the Fields : 105. 

Peasant- Mother teaching her Little Girl 
to Knit : 315. 

Peasant- Woman feeding Turkeys: 332. 

Pelloquet, Theodore : Criticisms by, 125, 
241 ; Letter of Millet to, 241-3. 

Petit Poucet, Le: Illustrations of, 347-8. 

Pictures, Millet's : Examples of, in Eng- 
land, 370 ; Present Owners of, 
361-71 ; Sale of Unfinished, 354, 
362. 

Charcoal, 379-82. 

Pastel, 374-9- 

Piedagnel, Alex. : his Description of 
Millet's Home-life, 270-2. 

Pius IX. : Commission from, 184. 

Planteurs de Pommes de Terre, Les : 216, 
223, 230, 297. 

Potato Planters : v. Planteurs de Pommes 
de Terre. 

Poussin, Nicolas : Millet's admiration 
, for, 53. 

Premiers Pas, Les : 377. 

Printemps, Le: 232, 309, 332, 336, 337, 
369. 



396 



INDEX 



Priory of Vanvilk, The : 332, 334, 339, 

344- 
Procession to the Shrine of Saint e Gene- 
vieve: 344, 347. 

Kamasseurs de Varech, Les : 142. 
Recolte de Pommes de Terre, La : 297. 
Recolte du Sarassin,La: 332, 341, 344, 

370. 
Red Riding Hood : Illustrations for, 347. 
Rembrandt: Millet's Criticism of, 51-2, 

53- 
Repas des Moissonneurs, Le: 124 ; Gau- 

tier's Criticism of, 124-5 ; Pello- 

quet's Criticism of, 125. 
Reverie, La: 370. 
Riding Lesson, The: 69, 200. 
Robin, Pere : 239-40. 
Rollin, M. Ledru : 84, 88. 
Rossetti, Dante : 361. 
Rousseau, Theodore : Death of, 304 ; 

Effect of Death on Millet, 308-9 ; 

Friendship with Millet, 101, 

335-40 ; Millet's Letters to, 137 ; 

175, 216-7; Grave, 308 ; Illness, 

303 ; Letters to, 137, 175, 216-7, 

292, 303 ; Success at Exhibition, 

300 ; Unpopularity, 63. 
Ruth and Boaz in the Harvest Field: 62. 

Sacrifice of Priapus, A : 73. 

Sainte Genevieve, Wall Paintings for 
Church of: 341-3, 344. 

Saint-Victor, Paul de : Adverse Criti- 
cism by, 213, 238. 

Sale, The Campredon : 172-3, 174, 175. 

— The Gavet : 354, 362, 369. 

— The Secretan : 366-9. 

Salon, The : Millet placed on Jury of, 

318-9; New Regulations at, 237; 

Revolt of Artists at, 83. 
Seasons, The: Decorative Paintings of, 

267, 272, 280, 286-7. 
Secretan Sale, The : 366-9. 
Semeur, Le: 1 10-12, 243, 362, 363, 

370. 
Sensier, Alfred : Death, 355 ; Death of 

Daughter, 270 ; Friendship of 

Millet, 78-81 ; Visit to Millet at 

Greville, 228 ; Millet's Letters to, 

v. Millet, J. F. 
Sheep- Shearing : v. Tonte des Moutons, 

La. 
Shepherd, The: v. Berger, Le. 
Shepherd in the Fold by Moonlight: 207. 
Shepherdess, The: v. Bergere, La. 
Silvestre, Theophile : Admiration of 

Millet, 301-2 ; Letter to Asselin, 

323-4- 
Sleeping Labourers : 85- 
Sonnets, Etching for : 313. 
'* Souvenirs sur Theodore Rousseau " : 

317. 328. 



Sower, The: v. Semeur, Le. 

Spinner, The: v. Fileuse, La. 

Spring: v. Printemps, Le. 

Stevens, Arthur : 181, 182 ; Arrange- 
ment with, 205-7. 

Stevens and Blanc : Effects of Quarrel 
between, 215, 217. 

Swimmers at Sunset .'85. 

Switzerland : Millet's Visit to, 311. 

Temptation of St. Anthony: 73. 

Temptation of St. Jerome : 75-6. 

Thomas, M. : Decorative Painting for, 
252-4, 255, 258, 259-60, 261, 
267, 272, 280, 286-7 > Visit to 
Millet, 273. 

Thore : Criticism by, 208, 209 ; De- 
scriptive Notice by, 220. 

Titian : Millet's Criticism of, 51, 349. 

Tobit and his Wife: 206, 207, 211, 213. 

'Jondeuse des Moutons, La : v. Grande 
Tondeuse, La. 

Tonte des Moutons, La : 207, 220. 

Tourneux, Eugene : his Appreciation of 
Millet, 70, 75. 

Travaux des Champs, Les : 25, 143. 

Tueurs de Cochons, Les: 319, 320, 365. 

Vallardi : Suicide of, 226-8. 
Vanneur, Le: 83, 369 ; Sale of, 84. 
Veillee, La: 142, 165-6, 300. 
Velasquez : Millet's Criticism of, 52. 
Vichy : Millet's First Visit to, 294 ; 
Second Visit, 302 ; Third Visit, 

309- 
Vielle Fanchon, La : 65. 
Vieux Mur, Le: 225, 229. 

Washertvoman, The: 309. 

Watteau, Millet's Criticism of : 50-51. 

Wheat-ricks, The: 336, 341. 

Wheelwright, Edward : 135 ; Account 
of Millet's Character and Home- 
life, 151-67 ; Re-visits Millet, 
319-20. 

Winnower, The: v. Vanneur, Le. 

Woman and the Chickens : 203, 221. 

Woman Bathing: 246. 

Woman Carding Wool: v. Cardeuse, La. 

Woman Carrying home her Faggots: 339. 

Woman Crushing Flax : 105. 

Woman Leading her Cow to Feed: 193. 

Woman Putting Bread into the Oven : 

193- 

Woman with a Rake : 204. 

Woman Sewing by Lamplight: v. Femme 

a la Lampe. 
Woman Shearing Sheep: 83. 
Wood-Sawyers: 370. 
Workwoman Asleep, A : 73» 

Young Mother Nursing her Child: v. 

Maternite, La. 
Young Woman Sewing: 72. 



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